Thousands of people across Australia’s southeast were asked to evacuate their homes on Friday, including some in a western suburb of Melbourne, after two days of incessant rains triggered flash flooding and fast-moving waters burst river banks.
Large parts of Victoria state, southern New South Wales and the northern regions of the island state of Tasmania were pounded by an intense weather system with some taking more than a month’s worth of rain since late Wednesday, officials said.
“Our river systems… are reaching major flood levels at various times over today, through the weekend and through next week,” Victoria emergency services chief operations officer Tim Wiebusch told reporters.
Many rivers in Victoria, including the Maribyrnong in Melbourne’s west and the Goulburn further north, reached major flood levels, prompting the night-time evacuation of residents.
The Goulburn River at Seymour, about 100 km (62 miles) north of Melbourne, has peaked above the record 7.64 metres (25 ft) reached in May 1974, data showed. More than 200 flood rescues were conducted by emergency crews.
Upstream in Shepparton, rising flood waters are expected to surpass the 1974 peak by Tuesday and threaten over 4,000 properties.
“In terms of property damage, road, public infrastructure and the sheer volume of water, this is going to set new records,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said at a news conference.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the federal government stood ready to provide assistance to the flood-stricken states.