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Fears levee could fail amid Australian floods

Fears are growing that a levee protecting residents in an Australian community cut off by floods might buckle under the strain of high water levels in a swollen river.

Kerang lies in the south-east state of Victoria, which is the latest area to be hit by devastating flooding after north-eastern Queensland was overwhelmed by water across an area the size of France and Germany combined.

Most of Queensland’s crucial coal industry was shut due to the floods and 30 people died in what the government said could be the country’s most expensive natural disaster.

Victoria state is now bearing the brunt of the environmental disaster, with record rainfall last week creating rivers of water rushing across the northern and western parts of the state.

Seventy-two Victoria towns have already been affected by rising waters, 1,770 properties have been flooded and more than 3,500 people have evacuated their homes.

Floodwaters in the Kerang region were the highest in more than 100 years, said Kim Healey, a spokeswoman for the State Emergency Service.

Up to 1,500 homes in the town could be inundated if the levee holding back the water from the swollen Lodden River gives way. It has held out so far, but water levels are expected to remain high for several days.

“The primary concern is the ability of the levee to withstand high flood levels for an extended period of time,” Healey said.

Other communities were at risk of inundation for the next few days as water levels continue to rise in several areas. Residents of Dimboola, a town of about 2,000 in the state’s north west, were asked to evacuate today as the Wimmera River that runs through the community surged higher.

“This flood event is still far from over,” said Tim Wiebusch, director of operations for the State Emergency Service. “We are likely to see this flood emergency continuing for at least another seven to 10 days.”

The government has said the Queensland floods could be the country’s most expensive yet, but has not yet released estimates of the costs. Some estimates were already at five billion dollars before muddy brown waters swamped the capital Brisbane last week.

“People’s homes are stripped, they’ve got nothing. We’ve got to rebuild their homes and help them rebuild their lives,” Queensland premier Anna Bligh told Australia’s Seven network.

“So recovery is still a long way down the track – inch by inch, street by street.”

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