Desperate farmers swim stranded sheep to safety

Desperate farmers have swum sheep to safety in NSW

Desperate farmers have swum sheep to safety in NSW Photo: AAP

Distressing scenes are playing out in southwestern NSW where farmers face the harrowing task of trying to save their flood-stranded livestock.

Deniliquin farmer Louise Burge has lost at least a hundred sheep while thousands more are stranded. She’s now reliant on food drops by SES helicopters to keep them alive.

“It’s absolutely beyond catastrophic,” she told AAP.

Her family and neighbours have spent the past week moving thousands of sheep to higher ground as floodwaters inundated the property.

“They were in the water probably overnight but because we got them early enough they didn’t suffer hypothermia,” Ms Burge said.

The NSW farmer said around a hundred sheep have died and three thousand are still stranded.

“So we’ve got helicopters dropping to three different mobs, and this first mob had been out of food for six days,” she said.

Helicopters co-ordinated by the state emergency service spent Thursday dropping hay to the waterlogged properties as farmers desperately walked their livestock to drier ground.

Desperate farmers are battling to get thousands of sheep to higher ground.  Photo: AAP

And it’s not just livestock the farmers have lost.

“We’ve lost the majority of our crops, we’ve lost just about everything,” Ms Burge said.

Despite planning for the worst for months, the farmer said nothing could have prepared her family for the flood, and the situation was made worse when the levee banks began to break.

It’s the third time the area has flooded in a month, with water levels peaking this week.

“The Edward River was higher than it’s ever been before,” she said.

The Burges’ sheep are now trapped on islands and are expected to be stranded for weeks.

“We will not be able to get to them for a month or so until the creek goes down, until the Murray River drops to a certain height.”

All four of the Burges’ properties southeast of Deniliquin are under water.

Thousands of acres of farmland remain submerged.

With most of the crops washed away or eaten by hungry livestock, the NSW farmer is worried about what happens to the sheep when the helicopter leaves.

“We can’t truck them out and we’re going to have to keep helicopter feeding for I don’t know how long, there is no feed left … all the feed is ruined.

“We don’t know how we’re going to feed these sheep because they’re going to be stranded for a month or more.”

In residential Deniliquin, an interstate crew was deployed to help with sandbagging.


There are currently 83 warnings across the state, shown in the latest SES update Thursday night.

Central west — Emergency teams focus on five towns

The NSW State Emergency Service has teams deployed into Euabalong, along with emergency crews from New Zealand, and Singaporean Civil Defence Force personnel.

NSW SES deputy commissioner Dean Storey said resources were being focused on towns including Condobolin and Euabalong along the Lachlan River, Bourke on the Darling River, and Deniliquin and Moulamein on the Edward River.

“NSW SES members conducted community liaison in preparation for this predicted major flood in Euabalong,” he said.

“NSW SES continues to undertake resupply for essential goods and medication while they remain isolated, and sandbag requests.”

Premier Dominic Perrottet will be talking with locals and assessing the devastation at the flood-hit central west town of Condobolin on Friday.

The SES told residents they can return to Condobolin with caution, but 83 warnings remain in place.

Mr Perrottet said fixing 10,000km of damaged roads battered by the floods remains a priority in the reconstruction process.

“There is going to be a massive repair job ahead of us, particularly in the central west,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“It’s just not for keeping people safe on our roads, but also in terms of getting produce to market, we need to get those roads fixed very quickly”.

The Bureau of Meteorology says major flooding from the Murray River is occurring at Wakool Junction, Boundary Bend and Euston – all cross-border towns with Victoria.

In Bourke, the main Barwon-Darling river flood peak is approaching levels above the 1998 flood record, with a peak also expected overnight

The Murrumbidgee River at Balranald Weir is also heading towards a 7.3m peak.

The bureau is also warning summer will be soggy, with more rain and inevitable flooding yet again.

It said December to February rainfall was likely (greater than 60 per cent chance) to be above average for the north coast and southern NSW.

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