Volunteers patrolled the banks under hurricane lamps using phone lines laid by the army. 1956 Wentworth Floods Wentworth, NSW, lies at the heart of the Murray Darling Basin, at the confluence of Australia’s two greatest rivers, where the Darling joins the Murray. “The Second World War guys had only been out of the army 10 or 11 years and here they were combining a force and we just joined in.”. The Murray and the Darling were both in flood at the same time and the swelling excess water made its way to South Australia. The 1956 Murray River flood involved the rising of waters in the Murray River and flooding of many towns in three states of Australia, including the towns of Colignan, Iraak, Mannum, Murray Bridge, Mildura, Nangiloc, Red Cliffs, Renmark, Wentworth and many others. WHEN the Murray flooded the main street of Mannum, John Banks just went with the flow. The 1956 flood moved down the Murray and Darling Rivers for seven months and peaked between 11 and 14 August. The plaque commemorates the August 1956 flood when the Murray River tragically flooded the towns along its winding stream. It did however create a unifying force in the district that had not been evident before, or since.”. For those living in Wentworth today, the 1956 flood lives on in their memory. “All of them on the river side of the main street closed, they just got flooded out,” Mr Banks says. The peak came towards the end of August with the High School, Hospital, and homes and properties in Hale Street flooded. From this time it was deemed the embankments were not stable enough. Well, they had to be re-agisted to other areas of the state and interstate. This flooded large areas of horticulture and houses in the area. Big floods mean great trauma to some people and they often do not recover. Many of our family and friends were directly impacted by the flood, which tooks months and even years to recover from. The Merbein irrigation pumps were reliant on the Red Cliffs generator and were therefore at risk both from local flooding and a lack of electricity, if the Red Cliffs Power Station was flooded. The 1956 Murray River flood is considered to be the greatest catastrophe in South Australia’s history and is the largest flood ever recorded in the state. Renmark was ultimately saved but the town was surrounded, homes inundated, businesses crippled. But I don’t want to see another one.”. Shops and businesses operated with minimum staff and for reduced hours, so that as many people as possible were available to fill and transport the sandbags. When water flooded the Wells’ farm pump house, the pump and motor were floated in a dinghy across a swamp, propped up on 44-gallon drums and plugged into a neighbour’s pipeline. Locals knew there was water on the way but Mr Roy says the seriousness of the threat took many by surprise. “They thought it might flood some of Renmark but it wasn’t considered to be a super flood until it came on later on in July and just kept on rising. Unfortunately, major floods have also been disastrous to the modern economy along the river. Someone shouts and the crash gang of 22 young Renmark men roars away to yet another threatened levee,” he wrote. In early June, Renmark’s 21st Street was closed off, and by the end of the month, the Sturt Highway between Renmark and Paringa was also out of action. However, life went on as close to normal as possible. The Murray would peak at 10.2m in Renmark and a staggering 12.3m at Morgan. The people of Renmark never considered that the fight to save the town could not be won and it was their faith and determination, which helped them to fight for victory. “The Murray’s black mud was everywhere - in the shops, in the main street, wherever you went there was this black mud,” he says. NARRATOR: As the ancient lowlands along the River Darling and River Murray were succumbing to the greatest flood of our time, deluging town after town as a flood peak made its way to the sea. “Now, you’d never do that in a hundred years today - occ health and safety wouldn’t allow it. “It wasn’t considered dangerous at the beginning,” the 78-year-old recalls. “We were down one night running our nets and we could hear this noise, and it just sounded like a storm coming, wind, and we sort of got out of the boat, went up on the hill to my brother’s place and I said ‘I bet you I know what that is, the bank’s gone’ and sure enough, it had,” he recalls. According to Riverland author Graham Irwin in his book A brief history of Barmera, at the height of the flood, in late August, the river and Lake Bonney “merged to form an unbroken sheet of water, stretching from Barmera to Moorook” - 17kms away. Mrs Fletcher, now of Barmera, says while mostly men were at the frontline of efforts to protect the town, the women, too, instrumental. “So we rang one of the dairy farmers across the river, Rathjens, and told them about it and the next thing there were lights going everywhere, people getting their cows off of the swamp.”. As local historian Alison Painter later wrote: “One side-effect of the floods was reported from near Meningie where a dairy farmer killed 1032 tiger snakes driven on to his property from their normal swamp habitat as the waters spread inland.”. 1909 Western Victorian floods; 1956 Murray River flood; 2010 Victorian floods; Early 2011 Victorian floods; Tasmania. The pumping station at the foot of Pump Hill supplied water to 10,000 acres of vines and citrus for over 400 irrigators in the Merbein Irrigation District. He says authorities, too, did what they could to support the local effort. 1917, 1931 and the floods of the nineteenth century … River Murray floods, 1931. “Fifty-six is like a dateline, you know.”. SIXTY years ago, swelling floodwaters raced along two of Australia’s most powerful rivers, imperilling irrigation towns in three states, including in SA’s Riverland and MurrayLands. By the end of May, people were being evacuated in the low-lying areas. Bird life, fish breeding and growth of trees and shrubs require periodical floods to sustain their place in the life system surrounding the river environs. ONE of the biggest and longest running news stories in the history of Sunraysia Daily was the 1956 flood of the Murray and Darling rivers. 10.2 metres). “It breached the sandbags and flooded his bakery so he then had to take all of his equipment and go up Adelaide Road and bake up there.”. 1917, 1931 and the floods of the nineteenth century had been large, but nothing like this. The 1956 River Murray flood is considered to be the greatest catastrophe in South Australia’s history and is the largest flood ever recorded in the state. Big floods mean great trauma to some people and they often do not recover. Mildara Winery. A 60th anniversary of the 1956 flood exhibition will be on show until the end of October at the Arnold Gallery at the Dock Museum of River History, Mannum. But the people took on the water and won. The bowling green was underwater, the bakery was temporarily relocated to Adelaide Road and men had to row their boats to the pubs which were serving from bars on the first floor. The pumping station was, however, below river level and protected by a levee. Further up river, orchardists lost trees and vines. This was strictly a private road for the residents of the island to get their produce to market. 1917, 1931 and the floods of the nineteenth century had been large, but nothing like this. “I mightn’t see it in my time but I do believe that we’ll have another one.”. The disaster displaced thousands of people, wiped out crops, crippled local industries and left a damage bill in the millions of dollars. These had to be replanted and the owners lost several years income. At the height of the 1956 flood an estimated 15000 people visited Mannum in one day just to see the flood. He says “catastrophe” is not too strong a word to describe the flood’s impact. Moving stories of the floods. Main river towns suffered enormously with much of the commercial and residential areas submerged for several months. “The factory got flooded, so other factories around the Adelaide Hills and interstate had to be taking more milk where the cows were up in the Adelaide Hills, down in the south east, interstate and some of the dairymen had to go with their cows to milk them.”, The ‘Greatest Catastrophe of South Australia’s History’. A canteen was set up in the Institute, providing up to 700 meals a day, for weeks on end. “They brought a wire down to the starter motor, connected it, and away we went,” Mr Wells says. “Oh, that happened before ’56’, ‘Oh, no it didn’t, it happened after ’56,” Mr Wells, 81, explains. Se vi volas enigi tiun artikolon en la originalan Esperanto-Vikipedion, vi povas uzi nian specialan redakt-interfacon. “I’ve made a book about my life, and only just a little while ago I was flicking through it and came across a few pictures of us rowing a boat on what was the Cobdogla Bowling Club. Some areas were flooded up to 100 km from the natural flow of the river. were removed to safety at the
ACCORDING to Ken Wells, people in Murray Bridge plot history at two points on the spectrum; “Before ’56 and after ’56”. “They had to get these big water harvesters in, most of them run by tractors, and they pumped the water from one side of the flood bank back into the river again. “We had to do that because the river was flowing so fast and in among it was debris of all sorts. The local growers, many of whom were returned service men from World War 1 & 2, rallied the Merbein community and rostered ‘blockies’ (farmers) to use tractors and trailers and fill sand bags to build and reinforce the station’s levee banks. The water almost touched the first floor balcony of the Mannum Hotel and rose to nearly the same level down the street at the Pretoria. The flood was the culmination of a La Nina that began in 1954, bringing heavy rainfalls in Queensland, Victoria and NSW through until the first half of 1956, filling not only the Murray, but the Darling, too - a rare event. ‘Crash Gangs’ were formed - standing by with trucks laden with sandbags and emergency equipment. By the end of May, low lying areas were already inundated, and people and livestock were being evacuated. 9 metres). At this time the Old Wentworth Road, past the Merbein Race Course, was also flooded along with the road to the Merbein Cemetery, at the bottom of Second Street. Inclination towards adventure. Mr Wells was 21, living and working on the family market garden and orchard, south of town. The 1956 Murray River flood was the biggest catastrophe to hit the region and devastate towns including Renmark, Morgan, Kingston-on-Murray and Mannum. “We still lived there but most of the good furniture had gone and carpets rolled up, things like that.”. SOUTH Australians are pausing to mark the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Murray River floods - the “greatest catastrophe in South Australia’s history”. The NSW government had provided Harry Ferguson TEA20 tractors to WWII returned soldiers when they gave them their federal land allotments and irrigation systems. He says whether SA could see another flood as bad is anyone’s guess. “I think it would have been, because it was such a long, long drawn out affair and it went from the top of the state at Renmark, right down through the Lakes and further afield.”. Later, he was tasked with trying to protect some of Renmark’s biggest buildings. The town is vulnerable during flood times, but Wentworth has endured many since the ‘biggest on record’ in 1870. Register, Join the conversation, you are commenting as Logout. Mr Wells says the floods seriously compromised farming in the area but growers soldiered on. Command centres were set up and “crash gangs” - teams of young men, with trucks stacked with sandbags and emergency equipment - were put on standby to respond quickly when the river, inevitably, broke its banks. It's been 60 years since the 1956 flooding of the River Murray, often described as 'South Australia's greatest catastrophe'. It would have taken years.”. We even had, at one stage, the wharfies come up by bus at weekends.”. The electric motors
There was another small blessing - the fishing was good. “That’s where they carried on their business, on the balcony of the Pretoria Hotel.”. Some of them had to pick their fruit by rowing boat,” he says. It was the highest level flood recorded at Merbein since the irrigation district was established in 1909. But there was still much to be protected – machinery relocated, hay sheds shifted. The 1956 Murray River flood is considered to be the greatest catastrophe in South Australia’s history and is the largest flood ever recorded in the state. Mr Roy says the water sat around for months, long after the peak had passed. “Most of the elderly ones went off to live somewhere else so there weren’t so much worry to be looking after them.”. During the flood Sunraysia was very vulnerable as the district’s electricity generators were on the river banks at Red Cliffs and Mildura and there were no other sources of electricity coming into Sunraysia at that time. The 1956 ‘event’ was unique as a sustained deluge occurred down the east coast of Australia, along the Great Dividing Range and beyond. Visit the Mannum Museum. This tragic event which extended over a period of seven months caused much distress for the people who lived along the Murray River. Merbein residents then had to go to Mildura via Seventeenth Street until the floods receded and the road was repaired many months later. In 2006, for the 50th anniversary of the flood, Mr Banks, 83, and the foursome snapped rowing alongside him, were invited back to Mannum to re-enact the moment. The first signs of warning came in May, when reports were received of unusual high levels in the Darling. The Fergie Tractor monument, Australia’s first monument to the Fergie tractor, stands at the corner of Adams and Adelaide streets in Wentworth. Mr Roy had an important job of his own - motorbike messenger. The 1956 Murray River flood involved the rising of waters in the Murray River and flooding of many towns in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.The flood occurred due to higher than average rainfalls in Western Queensland and heavy rains in the proceeding three months in the Murray-Darling basin. “We had a terrific lot of volunteers from Adelaide, interstate, the Mid North; they would come here in busloads. “And the force of the water going out the mouth - it was recorded that the brown mud that was coming down the river was about 40km out to sea”. The scariest part about it was nobody could tell us when the water would get to its peak. For many in the district, it was a long road back to normal. The cairn commemorates those who saved the Curlwaa Irrigation Area from inundation by the floods of 1956. Months of heavy rainfall in the eastern states resulted in a massive volume of water surging through the Murray-Darling system, culminating in vast flooding in South Australia. Wentworth, NSW, lies at the heart of the Murray Darling Basin, at the confluence of Australia’s two greatest rivers, where the Darling joins the Murray. By mid August, 1,500 people had been evacuated, leaving some 800 men, women and children to battle the rising floodwaters. Don't have an account? Courtesy of/Photographer:Loxton News. Despite the town itself being saved, the damage to houses, horticultural properties and town facilities was wide spread and the effects of the flood lasted for many years. The flood information for the South Australian section of the River Murray was obtained from the South Australian Government by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), and … River Murray Flood Mapping shows the extent of flooding based on historical records and some associated information (e.g. I mean, most of us had never been through a flood of that type.”. Floodwater in Mannum peaked on the 9th September 1956 at 5.35m. flood depth contours and levels) captured by two different projects for (1) the River Murray from the mouth to the South Australian border, and (2) the River Murray from the South Australian border to Lake Hume. Courtesy of/Photographer:H. Everingham, Renmark National Trust. The Shilliday’s corner (3MA) levee broke on August 7. YVONNE “Vonnie” Fletcher was 34 and running a trucking business with her husband, Syd, in Cobdogla when rising river levels put the town on a defensive footing. With the flood nearing its peak, the wash from the passing paddle boat PS Wanera is believed to have caused a break in the levee bank on the river road; suddenly dropping the river height at the pumping station and affording temporary relief. Mr Banks recalls one particularly eventful fishing expedition. Some were totally destroyed. Floods in New South Wales; 1955 Hunter Valley floods; 1956 Murray River flood; June 2007 Hunter Region and Central Coast storms; 2011 Wollongong floods; Australian Capital Territory. “The women all along (the river) used to take afternoon tea, morning tea, out to all the fellows that were building the banks. Join the conversation, you are commenting as. The Murray pioneer 1956-57 flood diary / 1st ed. An emergency flood committee was formed, and the whole community became involved in the fight to save the town. “You just had to keep going and when the low-lying areas were being threatened, or when one levee went, say, north of Murray Bridge, well you went and did what you could to help,” Mr Wells recalls. A number of properties were on an island with the only access provided by the railway embankment. To join the conversation, please Day and night for several months the townspeople, Ferguson tractors and the Army and Navy worked to avert disaster by building levees around the town. All three banks are still readily distinguishable. It's hard to imagine Mannum looking like this these days. The River Murray in flood at Renmark, 14 July 1956, looking south. Find out more about our policy and your choices, including how to opt-out. The Ferguson tractors were light, manoeuvrable machines, with Harry’s unique 3-point linkage for the interchange of implements, and were indispensable in the huge task in front of everyone. Children were ferried across the river in a boat to get to school and the bus was kept on the Cowirra side of the river. Government grants for rehabilitation work in Renmark amounted to more than $770,000 and assistance was also given to families from voluntary donations to the Lord Mayor’s Relief Fund. – disasters seem to attract the crowds. Mr Bruist said the flood was the worst since 1870 — a time before dams helped to regulate the Murray and its tributaries. The River Road from Mildura to Merbein was initially protected from the flood water by levee banks in three places during the 1956 floods. “Maybe we’ve got a better handle on it now with, you know, satellites and all that sort of thing, we can perhaps understand it more. The trains to Yelta and Merbein were cancelled for some months. Mud and debris were deposited everywhere and smelt horrible. Water, water everywhere but there was still time for a drink. A record level was confirmed in Renmark of 9.194 metres and most of the towns people had to be evacuated. Photographic records show major floods of 1890, 1917, 1931 and the biggest and most recent major flood of 1956, including television footage and stories from the newspapers of the day. The floods devastated the region over months with an estimated cost of more than 500,000 pounds. “It was of concern that the floors of the buildings would expand and push the walls over so our job was to go and break every, god knows, fifth or eighth board on the floors, especially the old high school, then the hospital. Those levees held back 80 miles of water for months. The floods devastated many towns across Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. An edited extract from "1956 Flood", a film that explores the impact of the 1956 floods along the Murray and Darling Rivers, using historical film footage and photographs, many sourced from private archives. Rowers could be seen rowing down the main street of Mannum and hotels continued to serve through their second storey balconies. River Murray floods, 1956 : a pictorial record of . The 1956 flood, which peaked at 341,000ML/day, is the largest River Murray flood on record. The floods peaked at 12.3 metres in Morgan. # rivermurray # murrayriver There was what they called a “Crash Gang” too, which was made of young fellas that slept all in the one building and if there was any alarms went off they were the first on the scene. Murray Bridge, perched on a hill, was never in danger of inundation. 60,000 ML/day, 80,000 ML/day and 90,000 ML/day inundation maps To help assess the possible extent of inundation for different flow scenarios, the Department for Environment and Water has modelled and mapped River Murray flow events of 60,000ML/day, 80,000 ML/day and 90,000ML/day. 1971 Canberra flood; Victoria. Writing in The Advertiser on August 22, 1956, journalist Max Fatchen called the gangs “the shock troops of the flood battle”. Like Renmark, Mannum copped the full force of the flood and many businesses paid a heavy price. rivers joined forces at their junction in Wentworth. Six hundred homes in the district were flooded, as well as two hundred holiday shacks. Eventualaj ŝanĝoj en la angla originalo estos kaptitaj per regulaj retradukoj. “We were growing citrus and stone fruit, the same with like Mypolonga - a lot of their orchards were flooded out. The Museum’s street scene is set up to recreate Mannum’s main street, Randell Street. Some areas were flooded up to 100 km from the natural flow of the river. By mid-August , more than 1500 people were had been evacuated to against the flood… Share your photos and memories of the floods. Major floods since this time include those which occurred in 1917, 1931, 1956 and 1974. Local knowledge played a big part in determining what could be done. Rowers trained in Mannum’s main street. But it was the dairy industry that was hardest hit. It was thought this was the peak but the next day the water rose a further ½ an inch although for the first time since 15 June it then remained stationary. The situation was eased by the introduction of a rail shuttle service between the two towns. It was, he wrote, a time of “organised confusion, with predicted levels being changed almost daily. “We used to then carry the boats out over the sandbags and put them in the water, in front of the Pretoria Hotel and row them down the main street as part of our training,” he says. All times AEST (GMT +10). “I don’t think we’ll ever see it quite as bad again.”. River dwellers, farmers and business people have seen their homes and properties submerged and often damaged beyond repair. The ‘mad mile’ levee at the bottom of Pump Hill broke on Monday July 30th. “There seemed to be fish everywhere and we used to catch them in nets - and of course in those days we could - and every Sunday we’d put them in a pound, clean them of a Sunday morning and go up Adelaide Rd and sell them to the people coming up from Adelaide in the afternoon,” he says. 22 August 1956 Murray floods At midnight on 22 August 1956 the level of the River Murray at Renmark reached 30 feet 6 ¾ inches. “The flour mill kept operating most of the time, the bakery, Bormann’s Bakery, which was right alongside of the Bank of Adelaide, they actually got flooded out on August 24. The August floodwaters peak was 12.3 metres at Morgan and 10.2 metres in Renmark. The highest level of the official gauge at the Renmark Wharf read 27 feet (approx. “The Bank of Adelaide, which it was then, they had to close because people couldn’t get in and do business. “Whether we did any good I don’t know. 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