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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Victoria Australia Floods Force Koo-Wee-Rup Residents to Evacuate Melbourne Under Water

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Victorian floods force Koo-wee-rup residents to evacuate


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THOUSANDS of people were given two hours to get out of their homes as fast-rising floodwaters last night threatened to engulf four country towns.

Victoria's State Emergency Service said it had told more than 6000 residents of Koo-wee-rup, Iona, Bayles and Cora Lynn in Gippsland to grab their pets, medicine, photographs and three days' clothes and flee to emergency centres in Cranbourne and Pakenham.

The warning came as the Lower Bunyip River swelled dangerously upriver, and was tipped to peak at more than 7.2m in the early hours of today.

A ferocious dump of rain caused by Queensland's tropical cyclones Yasi and Anthony swept across Victoria, flooding dozens of homes from Melbourne to Mildura, closing hundreds of roads, inundating schools and churches and leaving a damage bill approaching an estimated $100 million.

At 7.30 last night, the SES texted 4000 phones and called another 2000 landlines across the four towns, warning residents to get out before 9.30pm.

"Residents and businesses are urged to take immediate action to protect life," the SES warning said, encouraging people to take their photographs and valuables with them, and stack other items up high, including in the roof space of their homes, to protect them from floodwaters.

In Koo-wee-rup, Allison Cathie, 32, said she feared she would not have a home to return to today.

"I'm scared about losing my house, having nowhere to live and to find all my belongings trashed," Ms Cathie said. "I don't want to drown and I hate the feeling that we could all drown."

Police and ambulance staff evacuated 51 patients and elderly residents from the Koo-wee-rup hospital, taking them to hospitals in Malvern, Camberwell and Leongatha.

At 10 last night, locals feared the Lower Bunyip River would burst, forcing the entire town to shut its doors and flee for higher ground.

Hugh Brown has lived in the area for 62 years and said he would defy the evacuation order despite his home being on the riverbanks.

"I'm going to ride it out," Mr Brown said.

Last night, the roads out of Koo-wee-rup were clogged with cars full of residents and their belongings fleeing the flood threat.

Almost two years to the day after a fierce heatwave sparked the Black Saturday bushfires that claimed 173 lives, Victoria was awash yesterday, with almost 5500 stranded and besieged Victorians needing help from emergency services.

Mildura, in the state's far north, recorded its highest rainfall on record, and in Melbourne, the southeastern suburbs were battered.

In the most serious storm incident, an English tourist, 26, was rushed to hospital with serious head and chest injuries after a gum tree fell on top of the tent she was sleeping in at a Doncaster East caravan park.

More than 90 people had to be rescued.
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