Extraordinary photos have re-emerged of the catastrophic Melbourne floods of 1972 – as a surge of water once again destroys parts of the city and saturates central Victoria.
Historic images emerged on Thursday showing the record-breaking downpour in February that year, which turned busy inner-city streets into rivers and saw waves crash into buildings.
Cars, belongings and rubbish were swept down roads, pedestrians were evacuated to higher ground and all forms of public transport were effectively shut down.
Melbourne’s streets turned into rivers one afternoon in February 1972 after a record downpour
Melbourne recorded a 75mm downpour over 17 minutes, soaking the inner city as well as surrounding suburbs such as Carlton, Brunswick, Fitzroy and Richmond.
The floods began to form in the city between 16:00 and 17:00 in the afternoon, which created further chaos with traffic during rush hour.
In some parts of the road, the water was 1.2 meters deep.
Vehicles floated down the street or were completely submerged under water.
Police officers attempted to rescue Melbournians who were trapped or isolated.
At one point, an elderly woman had to be rescued after she fell into a flooded manhole.
The rain began to ease from around 5.30pm as emergency services worked to clear the area.
Trams and trains were shut down during the storm and workers spent the night trying to fix services for the morning after.
Cars and belongings floated down the road or were submerged underwater as the waves swept through the busy streets
Melburnians evacuated the area to seek higher ground or sought shelter in storefronts to escape the deluge
No one was seriously injured, but all 50 ambulances in the city were in use during the storm.
Emergency services received 1,200 calls during the four hours from the beginning of the flood.
Traffic leading out of town slowed to a crawl after the rain slowly cleared, making little progress over the next three hours.
Abandoned cars or cars that broke down due to the floods significantly hampered traffic.
The historic scenes have come to resemble the floods that have rolled through Melbourne’s north-west inner suburbs and towns in central Victoria.
Clean-up work is underway in Maribyrnong after the suburb was ravaged by floods as heavy rain combined with a saturated catchment saw the Maribyrnong River crest at 4.18 metres.
The flood damaged more than a hundred properties in the low-lying tidal area of the municipality.
Water rose to 1.2m in some parts of Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, as police tried to rescue pedestrians who were trapped or isolated
The images from the 1972 floods come as floods wreaked havoc across Melbourne’s north-west inner suburbs and towns across central Victoria (pictured emergency workers evacuate residents amid flooding in Maribyrnong)
Clean-up work is underway in Maribyrnong (pictured) after the suburb was devastated by floods that damaged more than a hundred properties
Meanwhile, new evacuation orders have been issued for some residents living near Australia’s largest river, the Murray River, with warnings of further flooding and more rain forecast.
Residents in Echuca, near the Victoria border, are bracing for the Murray River to peak from late Friday, amid reports of bare supermarket shelves after road closures cut off supplies.
“We’re crossing some of the local roads with both supply and emergency services at this point, but the next 24 hours are going to be critical,” Victoria State Emergency Services chief of operations Tim Wiebusch told ABC television.
Evacuation warnings are also in place for the smaller towns of Barmah, Lower Moira and Bunbartha, with swollen rivers threatening to burst their banks.
In Echuca, locals have spent days building a two-kilometre temporary flood dam through the town to protect thousands of homes and businesses.
Residents in Echuca (pictured) and Moama near the Victorian border have been told to evacuate immediately as the Murray River rises to record levels
Pictured: Flooding hit areas in Rochester, 190km north of Melbourne, on Monday
Eighteen volunteers from the Queensland State Emergency Service were deployed across Victoria on Thursday to provide more flood boats and swift water rescue teams.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said up to 500 defense personnel would help flood recovery efforts, with hundreds already on the ground filling sandbags while military helicopters were deployed on evacuation and resupply missions.
Several layers of sandbags have been placed in front of shops and homes in Echuca, television footage showed.
Up to 100mm of rain could drench Australia’s east – about a tenth of the annual rainfall in some areas – over the next five days. Although the Bureau of Meteorology on Wednesday downgraded its forecast, any amount of rain increases the risk of flash flooding from the already swollen rivers.
Residents in Echuca build sandbag walls against the possibility of rising floods (pictured, residents building the wall outside a local pub)
Residents in flood-prone towns in northern Victoria have been warned they could be cut off for up to a week if they don’t evacuate soon.
Victoria emergency services also urged Echuca residents to limit water use after flooding damaged sewer systems.
Police reported another death from the floods, which began last week, bringing the total to three.
SES has received more than 8,000 requests for assistance since the flooding started, including almost 730 rescues.
Australia has struggled with frequent flooding along its east since early 2021 due to La Nina, which brings more rain. The weather phenomenon is underway for the third consecutive year and is likely to last into next year, suggesting more flooding in the coming months.