Neha Samar and her family have not seen their sandbagged home in Shepparton since an evacuation notice was issued on Saturday morning.
They were lucky, they quickly packed up and left. By Sunday, their street was cut off due to flooding. The one who decided to stay was trapped. With two young children, she and her husband did not want to take any chances.
“It was chaotic,” she said.
“I’m worried about things in the house, but as long as the kids are safe, that’s the most important thing … we left when the water started coming. We knew that if it got worse, she would come to us.”
Thousands of homes in Shepparton and other regional Victorian communities are expected to be flooded or cut off in the coming days as the state’s flooding crisis worsens, with some rivers not expected to peak until Monday.
An estimated 6,000 properties were without power on Sunday, and more than 9,000 people have already applied for emergency assistance.
About 120 schools and 100 early learning centers in Victoria are expected to remain closed on Monday, with the education department planning to have students attend nearby schools where possible.
The Australian Defense Force is increasing its help with evacuations, sandbagging and clean-up in devastated regional areas as the Albanian government expanded the number of people eligible for disaster payments.
The announcements came amid ongoing evacuations as emergency authorities ordered residents of Charlton and Echuca to leave their homes immediately on Sunday, where up to 400 properties could be affected.
Many residents in Shepparton, Orval, Murchison and Mooroopna have been told it is too late to leave their communities.
Samar and her family were waiting for him at a friend’s house with three changes of clothes, diapers and medicine.
The Goulburn River reached nine meters on Sunday evening. Had it reached 12.2, as predicted early Monday morning, her home would have been “under water”.
“Our children were asking: can we go home, is the flood over?” and we are trying to explain the reality – that we are safe, which is more important,” said Samar.
“Our five-year-old is very good at reading our faces, so we try to be as calm as possible. It’s also a learning experience for us – we’ve never experienced this before.”
Emergency Services Victoria said more than 7,300 homes and businesses in the Shepparton area could be affected by rising water, with about 2,500 of those at risk of flooding. There were 146 flood rescues in 24 hours, with the majority in the Shepparton area, the SES said on Sunday.
Prime Minister, Anthony Albanesevisited flood-affected areas with Prime Minister Daniel Andrews on Sunday and confirmed the extension of emergency aid.
Disaster relief assistance, a 13-week income replacement scheme, will be provided to residents of 23 local government areas. A one-off disaster recovery payment of $1,000 per adult and $400 per child was also available to people in the Campaspe, Great Shepparton, Maribyrnong, Mitchell and Strathbogie areas who suffered serious property damage or personal injury.
A 250-bed camp for displaced people is to open at a former quarantine center in Mickleham. Around 100 ADF personnel are also being deployed to help with evacuations and placing sand in the worst affected area.
“We are working with federal, state and local governments to make sure that every support is given to these communities that are under such tremendous pressure,” Albanese told reporters.
“Australians are coming together, they’re helping each other and we’re seeing the best of the Australian character again in the worst of times.”
Andrews said the flood was different from other floods because heavy rainfall has left catchments soggy and more rain is forecast.
“These [river] peaks, even if they recede from the high mark, communities will still have water and houses will remain uninhabitable for extended periods of time,” he said.
Major flooding reached its peak at Murchison, where Goulburn reached a peak of 12 metres. It also affected communities along the Avoca River to Charlton, where the waterway rose to 7.73 meters on Sunday morning.
The river at Charlton could peak at 8 meters early on Monday. The Wimmera River has also risen and residents in Horsham have been warned that severe flooding is possible on Monday and Tuesday.
Severe flood warnings are also in place for the Broken, Avoca and Loddon rivers, as well as the Seven and Castle creeks.
Echuca is expected to be hit by two peak floods, one on Tuesday and the other later this week.
Residents of Nannela, Fairy Dell, Coyuga, Canyapela, Appin South and Kerang were advised to seek shelter on higher ground.
It is estimated that more than 350 roads remain closed in flood-affected areas and around 6,000 properties are without power.
U New South Walesresidents in parts of Narrandera, on the Murrumbidgee River in the Riverina region, were told to leave due to moderate flooding and warned they could be isolated if they stayed after 6pm on Sunday.
The main flood peak on the river has passed Wagga Wagga, but further downstream moderate flooding is expected at Darlington Point from Thursday and has exceeded minor flood levels at Balronald.
Severe flood warnings are in place for 11 rivers in New South Wales, with further flooding possible in some areas despite the rain temporarily stopping.
Josh Butler contributed to this report