Flooding ravages northern towns, claims life in NSW

TOWNS in Victoria's north face multimillion-dollar damage bills from floodwaters that are expected to continuing rising in some areas this week.

TOWNS in Victoria's north face multimillion-dollar damage bills from floodwaters that are expected to continuing rising in some areas this week.

In New South Wales, the floods claimed a life, as authorities pulled the body of a man from the swollen Majors Creek at Araluen in the southern tablelands.

The body is believed to be that of a 43-year-old Victorian missing since Saturday night after he and his two friends became trapped in a car in the flood. One was rescued as he clung to a tree and the other was found downstream.

The body is yet to be formally identified.

Araluen orchardist Robyn Clubb said the dead man had been hired casually to prune peach trees in her orchard.

Ms Clubb said she had been checking on her cattle near rising flooding on Saturday night when she discovered a four-wheel-drive wedged in rocks in Araluen Creek belonging to the three men.

Scoured years ago from gold diggings, the dry creek bed had become an 80-metre-wide raging torrent from days of heavy rain.

Ms Clubb said the dead man was found 700 metres from where the four-wheel-drive was stuck.

A 44-year-old Araluen man and another man, 37, from Captains Flat were taken to Braidwood Hospital on Saturday evening suffering from hypothermia.

Mrs Clubb said had the men stayed with their vehicle, they would have been safe.

"I don't know whether they panicked or what. Their little dog was put on the top of their vehicle, which was good for the dog. But the fellow in the tree was trying to get them not to go.

"The police were saying this morning, if they had've stayed in the vehicle they would have been OK."

Victoria's already sodden north and north-east have been pummelled by up to 160 millimetres of rain in 24 hours, causing widespread flooding of properties and farmland.

Numurkah was hardest hit yesterday, with at least 30 homes and the town's hospital inundated, forcing some patients to be flown to safety.

Nearby Nathalia is also braced for record flooding in coming days, with both towns at the mercy of Broken Creek.

The creek started to cut Numurkah in two late Saturday night and by yesterday afternoon had swallowed the caravan park, tennis club and bowling club.

Some shops in the main street had water lapping at their doors, but sandbags held firm.

The hospital and an adjoining nursing home and retirement village were swamped.

Chief executive Jacque Phillips, standing in knee-deep water outside the hospital, said 34 patients had to be evacuated.

She said some equipment had been saved, but water had swept into most of the hospital, including X-ray rooms and operating theatres.

"It's tragic, heartbreaking to see this," Ms Phillips said. "It's a well-loved facility by the community and now it's about rebuilding it. We didn't know it would come to this."

Richard Newton was four years old when he moved with his parents to Numurkah months before the 1974 flood. He said their house had survived that episode and the flood of 1993 but he had water more than 20 centimetres deep in his lounge-room yesterday.

His parents had been holidaying in Queensland and asked him to mind the house. "I got some furniture up off the floor, but there's only so much you can do," Mr Newton said.

Numurkah caravan park manager Terry Harbor said he had evacuated visitors and permanent residents on Saturday night. He expected about eight caravans, a laundry and a toilet block to be damaged. "I just want to start cleaning up," Mr Harbor said.

Shepparton incident control centre spokesman Darren Skelton said at least 30 houses and 10 businesses had been flooded. He confirmed the Numurkah flood had exceeded all records and said Nathalia was expected to be hit on Thursday with a peak higher than that reached in 1993. Emergency services spent yesterday strengthening a levee at Nathalia.

A State Emergency Service spokesman said up to 390,000 sandbags had been used during the flood effort in the past week.

Wangaratta still faced the possibility of flooding, but other towns in the north-east, such as Katamatite and Tallygaroopna that had been hit earlier in the week were expected to be safe. In east Gippsland, about 20 farms near the Snowy River were flooded. And an evacuation order was issued for North Wagga Wagga in NSW last night.

Premier Ted Baillieu said that while weekend rainfall had not been as soaking as forecast, some towns would be waiting days for floods to clear.

"This water is set to stay around for some time and that means there are obviously access issues and there are issues around water quality and mosquitoes and making sure that people stay out of unhealthy situations," he said.


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