CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – About 34,000 homes in the state of Victoria could be flooded or isolated if a flood emergency continues in parts of southeastern Australia, an official said Monday.
Victoria is the hardest hit state and some cities are experiencing the highest river peaks in decades. The states of New South Wales and Tasmania also suffered from flooding in a emergency that started last week.
Federal Emergency Management Secretary Murray Watt said Victoria was facing “severe flooding” with more rain for the end of this week.
“It’s quite likely that we’ll see a flood peak happen and the water will retreat, followed by another peak, when different river systems converge,” Watt told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“So this is a very serious situation and the reports I’m getting are that we… could be looking at up to 9,000 homes flooded in northern Victoria and possibly close to about 34,000 homes in Victoria, either underwater or isolated,” Watt added.
Two people have drowned and two have been reported missing in Victoria and New South Wales in the past week.
The latest fatality was a 71-year-old man who was found dead on Saturday in the water in the backyard of his home in Rochester, a central Victorian town about 180 kilometers (110 miles) north of the capital Melbourne.
Tim Wiebusch, chief operating officer at Victoria State Emergency Service, estimated that 85% of Rochester was inundated over the weekend by the overflowing Campaspe River.
The northern Victorian town of Kerang will likely be isolated for up to seven days when the Loddon River peaks on Wednesday or Thursday, Wiebusch said.
“While we have some communities where rivers are starting to retreat, there are still many rivers and communities that are threatened by major flooding in the coming days,” Wiebusch said.
Many schools and roads in South East Australia were closed and thousands had their homes evacuated.
October usually marks the start of wildfire season in the three states experiencing record and near-record flooding.
The landscape usually dries out during the spring in the Southern Hemisphere and the fire hazard escalates during the summer. But the Bureau of Meteorology said last month that a third consecutive La Niña weather pattern, which is associated with above-average rainfall in eastern Australia, was underway in the Pacific.
The agency predicts that the La Niña event could peak during the current spring in the Southern Hemisphere and return to neutral conditions early next year.
Professor Julie Arblaster of Monash University’s School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment in Melbourne described three consecutive La Niñas as rare.
“The rainfall and flooding is consistent with our understanding of how a La Niña event will affect our region,” Arblaster said in a statement.
Other climatic factors – a positive southern annular mode and a negative Indian Ocean dipole – also have: tuned to bring above average rainfall to Eastern Australia.
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