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Thousands evacuated as Australian floods hit Victoria

Major floods are now devastating vast areas of the southern Australian state of Victoria, forcing thousands to flee to higher ground.

Several northern towns in the state and swathes of agricultural land are already inundated, with 43 towns farther to the south now under threat and at least 3,500 people already evacuated from their homes. At least 1,400 more homes are under immediate threat from the rising waters.

According to state officials, the floods are the worst seen for decades, with the State Emergency Service’s Trevor White warning the crisis is set to continue. He explained four major rivers across the state, the Wimmera, Campaspe, Avoca and Loddon, are in major flood and unprecedented stream rises are making matters worse. The towns of Echuka and Horsham are expected to be at most risk.

In Horsham, the Wimmera River is expected to peak today and is already at a high level, threatening a major disaster for the town. Charlton is underwater after the Avoca River burst its banks, inundating homes with unbelievable force according to resident Gary Tonkin, who added the water is brown and stinking. Other residents said the amount of the damage was ‘heartwrenching’.

As the waters recede in Brisbane, the official death toll for the state is now 18, with a number still missing. Queensland’s premier, Anna Bligh, told reporters the situation was still critical although the cleanup is now underway. Over 30,000 homes in the city were swamped, many areas are still without power and the cleanup, according to officials, will take months.

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