Water reached the streets of rural communities in Victoria state after three weeks of flooding inundated the northeastern state of Queensland, The Associated Press reported. The death toll there rose to 30 with the discovery today of two more bodies, the AP said. Most of the victims died in a flash flood that hit west of the state capital, Brisbane.
In Victoria, residents of the town of Horsham, home to 14,000 people, were scrambling to protect their homes with sandbags as the rising Wimmera River threatened 500 dwellings, The Telegraph of London reported.
The river was expected to peak Tuesday. Victoria State Emergency Services spokeswoman Natasha Duckett warned of the possibility of a major flood, the AP said.
"The township could be bisected with a waterway right through the middle of town and the [Western] Highway cut," Duckett said.
Tim Wiebusch, a state emergency service controller, called the expected flood in Horsham a once in 200 years event, and the flood expected in Kerang, in northern Victoria, a once in a century occurrence, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Authorities sandbagged a power substation in Horsham and were working to build a second levee at a station in Kerang, the newspaper said. Some 20,000 people would be in the dark if the water breaches the levee at the Kerang substation.
So far, more than 1,600 homes across Victoria have been affected by flooding, and 3,500 people have been evacuated. A 7-year-old boy vanished in a flooded river today, according to reports.
Wiebusch said others towns could be inundated as well. "We are still to see in the order of perhaps 10 to 20 other communities that will still see effects of flooding over coming days and still see some of these flood peaks to come," he told reporters in Melbourne today, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Australia's treasurer, Wayne Swan, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. today that the flooding costs would be in the billions.
"It looks like this is possibly going to be, in economic terms, the largest natural disaster in our history," Swan said, according to the AP. "It will involve billions of dollars of commonwealth money and also state government money, and there's going to be impacts on local governments as well."