MELBOURNE/ SYDNEY: SYDNEY: Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Sunday toured flood-hit parts of Victoria State, including the city of Melbourne, as three southeastern states continued to grapple with a flood crisis after days of heavy rain.
The crisis comes after Australia’s eastern states were hit by severe flooding in early 2022 as the country endures a third consecutive La Nina weather event, bringing heavy rains.
“Australians are coming together, they are helping each other out and once again we are seeing at the worst of times, the best of the Australian character,” Albanese said in Melbourne, where a major flood cleanup was underway.
Earlier, the prime minister flew over flood-affected areas of regional Victoria with the state’s premier, Daniel Andrews.
Albanese said the “very severe weather event” was hitting urban and regional communities and that 60 Australian Defence Force personnel were assisting with evacuations and sandbagging.
He announced emergency payments of AUS$1000 ($620) to Victorians who had been seriously injured or had their homes severely damaged or destroyed.
Footage on social media showed Shepparton residents kayaking down flooded streets and large segments of the city submerged.
In Melbourne, thousands of residents were mopping up after the Maribyrnong River burst its banks on Friday, inundating suburbs close to the central business district.
A controversial flood wall saved Melbourne’s iconic Flemington racecourse from being inundated but has been blamed by some for worsening flooding in nearby residential areas.
Victoria State Emergency Service chief operations officer Tim Wiebusch said the state was experiencing “blue sky flooding”, with heavy rains having passed.
Victorian authorities reported the emergency’s first flood fatality on Saturday after a man’s body was found in floodwaters at Rochester, about 200 km (120 miles) north of Melbourne.
In Tasmania, 22 flood warnings were current, with most located near Launceston, the island state’s second-biggest city.
Rains eased in Australia’s New South Wales on Sunday but authorities continued to warn people to be aware of rising flood waters, as days of rain in much of the most populous state has swollen rivers and caused flooding.
Emergency services responded overnight to 343 requests for assistance and performed 21 flood-related rescues. A small number of people, primarily northwest of Sydney, have been asked to evacuate because of flooding and the State Emergency Service has issued 94 flood warnings.