Townspeople huddled behind sandbag walls on Monday as the inland sea swamping southeastern Australian snaked toward them down a tangle of swollen rivers, and the Prime Minister urged big business to help pay for a disaster big enough to threaten economic growth.
Emergency services were focusing their efforts on Swan Hill, a town 340 km northwest of the Victorian state capital of Melbourne, where the Lodden and Murray rivers meet.
Floodwaters are expected to peak there midweek when the sea arrives, said the State Emergency Service.
Volunteers have spent the past week piling tens of thousands of sandbags around the community, a town of 10,000 people, said Mayor Greg Cruickshank.
“We're nearly to the point to where we are as prepared as we can be,” he said. “If there happens to be inundation, it certainly won't be for lack of trying.”
Australia's flood crisis began with record rains in November that left huge parts of the northeast state of Queensland under water, killing 30 people, damaging or destroying 30,000 homes and businesses and causing at least $3 billion in damage to crops and lost coal exports. — AP