Authorities told people in Australia’s south east to flee homes on Wednesday as a surging river threatened another community in the flooding crisis that has devastated the country’s mining industry.
Up to 1,500 homes in Kerang, in the north of Victoria state, could be affected if the Lodden River rises any further.
The flooding in Victoria follows weeks of massive flooding in north-eastern Queensland, which swamped two-thirds of the giant state, paralysed several mines and left 30 people dead.
One of the victims, a 13-year-old boy, was buried alongside his mother after becoming a national hero for insisting that rescuers first save his younger brother when their family car was gripped by a raging torrent of water.
“The levee may come under further risk as there is a huge wall of water that is bearing down on Kerang.”
Tim Wiebusch, SES operations
Elsewhere in Queensland, authorities gave several of the state’s waterlogged coal mines special exemptions to environmental rules so they could pump water out into their already-flooded surroundings.
The mining industry estimates the flooding has cost AUD$2.3bn (£1.5bn) in lost sales of coal, Australia’s most lucrative export, causing a shortage that has pushed up global prices.
In Victoria, more than 1,207km south of the Bowen Basin which holds most of Queensland’s coal mines, the Kerang levee breached at several points and people were urged to head for a relief centre on higher ground, the State Emergency Service said.
“You should ensure you have left your property immediately,” the SES said in text message alerts sent about 5.20am to the town’s 2,500 residents.
Officials later said the levee was expected to hold, despite water pouring through it at several points. Still, the threat to the town had not passed as water levels were expected to remain high for several days, said SES operations director Tim Wiebusch.
“This flood emergency is still far from over,” he said. “The levee may come under further risk as there is a huge wall of water that is bearing down on Kerang.”
Walls of water miles wide are surging across northern and western Victoria in the wake of record rainfall last week.
Floodwaters have already left 1,000 households in Victoria’s north west without power, and thousands more homes are under threat of cuts as sub-stations and low-lying power lines are submerged.
Energy supplier Powercor built earthen barriers around the substation in Kerang, in a floodplain expected to be inundated by 1.8m of water.
Across Victoria state, more than 3,500 people have evacuated their homes, with 51 towns and 1,500 properties already affected by rising waters.