Towns prepare for rising river

UPDATE 5.30pm: The State Emergency Service is now advising that the Hopkins River will peak in Allansford from 10pm Sunday, and Mount Emu Creek will peak in the afternoon at Panmure.

EARLIER: State Emergency Service crews are sandbagging key areas around Allansford and Panmure on Saturday with the Hopkins River predicted to peak again on Sunday morning.

Warrnambool SES controller Giorgio Palmeri said the river was expected to reach 2011 flood levels about 6am on Sunday in Allansford after first peaking at Panmure.

Community meetings will be held in Panmure at 3pm and at the Allansford Recreation Reserve at 4.30pm on Saturday.

At least 12 SES volunteers from across Melbourne have arrived in Warrnambool and will spend the next four days helping with the sandbagging operation.

Volunteers from Essendon, Malvern, Wittlesea, Broadmeadows, Whitehorse and Nillumbik joined local crews at the Allansford Recreation Reserve on Saturday morning to fill sandbags.

Casterton crews, who were working to save property in their home town in the past week, have also arrived in Warrnambool to help.

The Princes Highway near Premier Speedway was sandbagged around lunchtime. The Allansford pump station and some properties were also earmarked to be sandbagged.

Warrnambool SES deputy controller Andrew Miles said that when the highway near the speedway was sandbagged in 2011 and it stopped floodwaters from going across the highway.

Other SES crews were also at Panmure on Saturday sandbagging the footy ground and at least one property close to the river.

“We are trying to get everything ready. We have a bit of time on our hands, time to get everything prepared in case something happens as forecast,” Mr Palmeri said.

“If we get the same levels as 2011, we had a handful of houses that were actually affected but those houses are being looked after and we’ve got things in place to protect them.”

The rowing club in Warrnambool and a house on Hopkins Point Road and Riverview Terrace, have also been sandbagged.

Mr Palmeri said Proudfoots Boathouse has also been told to prepare but they were confident it wouldn’t be impacted.

The floodwaters have sent lots of debris floating down the river, some of which was being collected at the floating jetties near Proudfoots. “From dead cows, trees, TVs and beanbags. A bit of everything.”

“The majority, I would say, would have been flushed to sea unfortunately,” Mr Palmeri said. 

Allansford resident Neil Martin said on Saturday that he had shifted some stuff out of his garage just in case the rising Hopkins River flooded part of his shed like it did once before in 2011.

“We’re just running sandbags around the bottom of the garage, shifted the fridge and freezer out of the garage and shifted other stuff higher,” he said.

“The car’s out, that’s the main thing.”

The fast-flowing Hopkins River at Allansford which is expected to peak at 6am Sunday.

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