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More levee failures as Murray peak nears

A search has resumed for a man missing in Murray River floodwaters in South Australia.

A search has resumed for a man missing in Murray River floodwaters in South Australia. Photo: AAP

Levees continue to fail and 14 warnings are in place as South Australia’s Murray communities brace for peak floodwaters.

The State Emergency Service says 14 levees across the river have suffered catastrophic failures and cannot be repaired. Another 18 have major defects, 36 have moderate defects and 52 minor issues.

Where possible, repairs are being made.

SES Chief Officer Chris Beattie said on Thursday the issues had been expected and would persist as the load from rising water levels continued to grow in coming days.

In one of the latest incidents, the levee at Gurra Gurra, near Berri, had collapsed, isolating 14 homes.

“We can expect to see the number of defects increase across the levee network right throughout River Murray communities as that peak scales up and indeed as it scales down because the structures would have been under load for some time,” Mr Beattie said.

“It’s inevitable we’ll see levees fail. We’ll be very pre-emptive about warnings and messages to the community.

“It’s important for people that live in flood risk areas that they have their plan prepared, that they understand when they will leave.”

About 4000 properties across the length of the Murray in SA are expected to be inundated with water flows forecast to peak between 190 and 220 gigalitres a day.

More than 1100 have been flooded so far.

An estimated 255 businesses and 4000 hectares of agricultural production will be impacted.

The high water mark is expected to reach Renmark in the next few days, Waikerie between December 29 and January 9, Swan Reach between January 2 and 13 and Murray Bridge between January 3 and 14.

River heights are likely to be around those experienced during the 1931 floods but still well below record levels experienced in 1956.

Earlier this week all non-essential activity including recreational boating, fishing and swimming was banned on the Murray as a safety measure.

There are exceptions to the prohibition with people requiring access to the river for work, including tourism operators or those visiting their properties able to do so.

The supply of food and other provisions will also be allowed.

Police will work to educate the community about the new regulations but those who persistently breach the ban could face a fine of up to $10,000.

Emergency Services Minister Joe Szakacs said the coming days were going to be extremely difficult for Riverland communities and the emergency services personnel there to protect them as the river neared its peak.

“I strongly urge people to follow the SA SES advice and to reach out if they need help,” he said.

“While the recovery effort will be a massive task, we are nearing the worst of it as far as river levels are concerned and I urge people to remain vigilant.”

– AAP

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