Wagga declared a Natural Disaster Zone

By Ken Grimson
Updated November 7 2012 - 2:05pm, first published December 6 2010 - 10:45pm
AT FIRST HAND: NSW Premier Kristina Keneally visits Wagga yesterday to see for herself the damage being done to Wagga by the rising floodwaters.
AT FIRST HAND: NSW Premier Kristina Keneally visits Wagga yesterday to see for herself the damage being done to Wagga by the rising floodwaters.

WAGGA survived its worst flood crisis in 36 years when the Murrumbidgee River peaked at a height of 9.67 metres yesterday evening, but sighs of relief were brief as predictions of heavy rainfall from tomorrow night could mean an even higher river later in the week.Premier Kristina Keneally inspected the water-besieged city in a State Emergency Service (SES) helicopter yesterday morning before announcing Wagga had been declared a natural disaster area, paving the way for a range of government financial assistance."It's quite humbling to see what nature can do to farms, people's properties and people's livelihoods," Ms Keneally said after landing near the SES headquarters on Fernleigh Road.The river peaked yesterday evening just six millimetres above the 1991 flood level of 9.61 metres and well below the 10.75 metres recorded in 1974.Emergency Services Minister, Steve Whan, said floodwaters had caused tens of millions of dollars damage around the state and ruined the best harvest in a decade."Up to half a billion dollars crop value has been lost," Mr Whan said."Our farmers are certainly feeling down at the moment."Ms Keneally described the floods around NSW, particularly the south, central and north-west, as "a sting in the tail for our farmers who have ensured a decade of drought and who were expecting a bumper crop".There has been a small number of rescues over the past few days, but, thankfully, the flood has not claimed any lives.Ms Keneally was accompanied by Mr Whan, SES commissioner Murray Kear and federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland as she met SES volunteers and sightseers at the Wiradjuri Bridge as water lapped its northern side.The levee banks held strong in the face of their biggest test since 1991, although leaks had to be attended to at the back of Romano's Hotel and in Small Street.About a dozen North Wagga residents defied the evacuation order so they could protect their properties and are now bracing themselves for an extended stay in isolation with more rain on the way.Some watched as the water rose to less than 300 millimetres from the top of their 9.9m levee bank.Canoeists were plucked from the river in East Wagga early yesterday morning amid appeals by the SES for people to stay out of the water.Ms Keneally, Mr Whan, Mr Kear and Mr McClelland thanked the hundreds of SES volunteers, council staff and the 170 Australian Defence Force personnel for helping prepare the city for flood, including filling thousands of sandbags used to keep water out of buildings."We thank those who have got up from their homes and their jobs and have come to assist," Ms Keneally said.Mr Whan said "a lot of people have done a lot of good work".

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