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Renmark guardedly optimistic it can weather flood peak after raising Murray levees

Authorities are quietly confident their massive scheme to raise and extend Murray River levees will keep Renmark safe from harm. Photo:  Renmark Paringa Council

Authorities are quietly confident their massive scheme to raise and extend Murray River levees will keep Renmark safe from harm. Photo: Renmark Paringa Council

The South Australian Riverland town of Renmark is just about ready for the surge of water heading its way.

With flows down the Murray River likely to peak there in about two weeks, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Premier Peter Malinauskas have visited the community to reassure residents.

As the crunch arrives, river levels will likely exceed those reached almost half a century ago. That’s prompted a massive program to upgrade local levees to protect as many properties as possible, work that is just about complete.

Renmark Paringa Council chief executive Tony Siviour says 38 kilometres of levees have been constructed or upgraded with some of the final work to be finalised next week.

Daily inspections of the barriers have also begun, using drones and visual checks.

‘Best possible spot’

Mr Malinauskas says the state government has done just about all it can to assist as many people as possible.

“I think we’re in the best possible spot we can be, given the difficulty of the circumstances,” he said on Friday.

“The tragedy is, there’s nothing we can do to stop this water coming.”

The river at Renmark reached the 1974 flood level on Saturday morning. Forecasts and flood models continue to be accurate, the premier told reporters.

“But we have to continue to monitor how that operates relative to the height of the river itself,” he said.

After speaking with locals about the challenges they faced, Mr Albanese said he was proud to lead a nation where the best of the Australian character was brought out at the worst of times.

“This is a difficult time but I have been really heartened by the optimism of this local community and the just sheer confidence that this community can be resilient and can get through this,” he said.

When the first peak reaches Renmark around December 14, daily flows are expected to hit about 175 gigalitres.

That will be followed by a short settling of water levels, before a second peak towards the end of year when flows will surge to about 185 GL.

The rising Murray is expected to inundate up to 4000 properties in SA with more than 450 of those considered permanent residences.

Authorities have begun door-knocking across river communities to ensure people are prepared with about 2500 properties checked so far.

Renmark and Mannum, east of Adelaide, are considered most at risk. Levee construction at Mannum is also in full swing with the first peak flows to arrive around December 27.

Power out, roads closed

The SA government last week announced a $51.6 million assistance package, including support for tourism and other businesses, as well as direct emergency payments to homeowners.

The federal government has also provided the disaster recovery allowance to people across nine SA districts.

While many impacted by the floods in SA will take refuge with family or friends, the state government has also secured emergency motel accommodation.

For those who must leave home for an extended period and can find a private rental option, the government is offering up to $5000 to help cover costs.

So far about 1200 properties have been disconnected from the electricity grid, with that number expected to rise to about 4000.

About 85 roads across the Riverland region have also been closed.

-AAP

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