11 October 2022

The sandbagging has begun with locals and backpackers pitching in

| Chris Roe
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Girls with a shovel

German backpackers Linda and Pia join the sandbagging effort as Wagga braces for a high river. Photo: Chris Roe.

Sandbagging began in Wagga last night as volunteers headed to the Wagga SES Unit to lend a hand after work.

The steadily rising Murrumbidgee River is expected to peak overnight on Wednesday at its highest level in a decade.

A ‘moderate’ level of 9.2 to 9.4m is expected following daily releases from Burrunjuck Dam and major flooding at Gundagai.

The river peaked at 9.04 metres in Gundagai at 2 am this morning (11 October) and has been steadily falling.

On Monday evening under perfect blue skies, children were still playing on the slides at the Wagga Riverside Adventure Park as it steadily became an island.

This morning, they would have been in for a wet landing.

SES spokesperson Scott McLennan said bags had been filled at the Fernleigh Road base and Council has replenished sand at North Wagga’s McPherson Oval.

“The North Wagga cache is available, so all people have to do is called the 132 500 number, there is sand there, bags and shovels and we can open it for the members of the community.”

At the unit last night the sandbagging machine was fired up for the first time in several years to speed up the process.

Other unit members took up shovels to do it the old-fashioned way and were joined by a pair of surprise volunteers from Germany.

Pia and Linda have been backpacking around the country and have stopped in Wagga for a stint of farm work.

“We are working on a farm at Forest Hill,” explained Pia.

“We just heard about the flooding going on and we were wondering if we can help somehow.”

The pair are no strangers to sandbagging and Pia says her home city of Hildesheim has flooded in recent years.

“My home is a city that gets flooded really easily and so we got to do it quite often,” she said with a resigned smile.

“It’s kind of different but I think it works the same.”

SES deputy incident controller Shane Hargrave delivered the daily update at North Wagga Community Hall last night and said that the forecast peak of 9.3 was of particular concern for residents in North Wagga.

“Six weeks ago, we came out saying the same thing and giving predictions of 9.3 but then we didn’t see 9 metres, which was a welcome relief,” he said.

“But this time, talking with the (dam) operators, I do believe that we will go over 9 metres.

“With that, our plan remains the same as last time.”

Rather than an evacuation order, parts of Wagga remain under a ‘Watch and Act – prepare to isolate’ warning, which is the second level of the three-tiered approach introduced last month.

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Residents in threatened areas should monitor the situation and prepare to be isolated by floodwater and be mindful that they may become trapped without power, water, and other essential services.

“Getting close to 9.3, if anything does go wrong and it does go higher, we are prepared to still provide the service to the community,” he said offering reassurance that a helicopter and high clearance vehicle were on standby and medical evacuation plans were in place.

For emergency help in floods and storms, call the NSW State Emergency Service on 132 500.

In life-threatening situations, call Triple Zero (000) immediately.

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