Australia PM Albanese tours flood-hit Victoria; evacuations, sandbagging underway

SYDNEY – Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Sunday toured flood-hit parts of Victoria, including Melbourne, as three states continued to grapple with a flood crisis sparked by days of heavy rain.

Emergency warnings were current for flood-impacted parts of Victoria, southern New South Wales and northern regions of Tasmania after a weather system earlier this week dumped more than a month’s worth of rain on the southeast.

The crisis comes after Australia’s eastern states were hit by severe flooding in early 2022 as the country endures a third consecutive La Nina weather event, bringing heavy rains.

“Australians are coming together, they are helping each other out and once again we are seeing at the worst of times, the best of the Australian character,” Mr Albanese said in Melbourne, where a major flood clean-up was underway.

Earlier, the prime minister said the “very severe weather event” was impacting both urban and regional communities and that 60 Australian Defence Force personnel were now on the ground, assisting with evacuations and sandbagging.

In Victoria, where flooding was worst, the focus was on the north, especially the city of Shepparton, where thousands of residents were told it was too late to evacuate as waters rose.

Victorian authorities reported the emergency’s first flood fatality on Saturday after a man’s body was found in floodwaters at Rochester, about 200km north of Melbourne.

In Melbourne, a flood clean-up was under way after the Maribyrnong River burst its banks on Friday, inundating suburbs close to the central business district.

A controversial floodwall saved Melbourne’s iconic Flemington racecourse from being inundated, but has been blamed by some for worsening flooding in nearby residential areas.

Victoria State Emergency Service chief operations officer Tim Wiebusch said the state was now experiencing “blue sky flooding”, with heavy rains having passed.

Across the border, in New South Wales, 74 warnings were in place on Sunday, with authorities particularly concerned about flooding in the inland towns of Forbes, Narrandra and Moama.

In Tasmania, 22 flood warnings were current, with most located near Launceston, the state’s second biggest city. REUTERS


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