Non-essential activity on Murray River banned in South Australia with flood waters peaking at Christmas

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A complete ban on non-essential activities on the Murray River in South Australia has been put in place as the Riverland faces its worst flooding in half a century.

Floodwaters from Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria have been flowing through the state for weeks, merging into the Murray River, expected to peak by Christmas.

South Australian Prime Minister Peter Malinauskas said that although people had known for weeks it was coming, there was still anxiety as the waters got closer, particularly because it was not not clear how the peak would act.

“In the field, people refer to historical markers[ofthe1956and1974floods)inrelationtotheflowsbutthereisalivingquestionabouttheaccuracyofthoseflowsintime”hesaid[fromfloodsin1956and1974)versustheflowratesbutthere’sasalivaquestionabouttheaccuracyofthoseflowratesbackinthetime”hesaid[desinondationsde1956et1974)parrapportauxdébitsmaisilyaunequestionvivantesurl’exactitudedecesdébitsdansletemps”a-t-ildéclaré[fromfloodsin1956and1974)versustheflowratesbutthere’salivequestionabouttheaccuracyofthoseflowratesbackinthetime”hesaid

The actual damage would depend on the amount of water reabsorbed in the floodplains, the current depth of the channels and other variables.

Related: South Australia suffers biggest blackout since 2016 as weather system drives more flooding to interior NSW

“It’s a natural disaster that everyone knew was coming,” Malinauskas said.

“It’s inevitable, but it’s so slow that it brings its own kind of psychological tension. Overall, people are resilient and prepared. But there is still anxiety, clearly.

Malinauskas announced Tuesday that boats, swimming, fishing and other activities have all been banned, just before the popular summer tourist season kicks off.

“It’s a decision that was not taken lightly,” Malinauskas said.

“This is a closure that takes effect immediately and will be in place for some time as we deal with the ever-increasing water flows crossing the border.”

Malinauskas said the ban was in place from the state border to Wellington, which is almost at the mouth of the river, to protect the public and levee banks, and to allow more flexibility to cut electricity.

“The river has been closed to non-essential activities to protect the safety of people, to protect the banks from damage, especially from waves created by motorboats going up and down the river, and thirdly, it actually provides more security around the energy connections that we need to see in place for as long as possible,” he said.

Daily flows across the border are expected to reach up to 220 gigalitres per day, at a time of year when they are typically below 20 GL.

Rising waters are already flooding homes and businesses, forcing people to evacuate, bridges to close and ferries to stop running, endangering wildlife and threatening farms.

About 4,000 homes (many of which are vacation homes) are expected to be flooded, despite dikes that have been built to hold back the water.

Related: ‘Perfect weather’: Most of Australia braces for a hot and dry Christmas Day

The latest flow report shows the peak will reach Renmark, just over the Victorian border, around Christmas or Boxing Day.

It then descends, through Berri and Waikerie and Mannum, before reaching Lake Alexandrina at the bottom of the system between 6 and 17 January.

For the first time in decades, dredging to keep the Murray’s mouth open has stopped as water flows out to sea. Dams, usually closed to prevent seawater from entering the river system, were opened to let out the flood waters.

Earlier on Tuesday, Malinauskas told the ABC that South African communities had been preparing for water for weeks.

“It’s been a slow event, but it’s getting more and more real,” he said.

“We know this will be with us for some time… there will continue to be high flows throughout the early months of next year. We know the cleanup effort is likely going to be an even bigger challenge than the preparations we have put in place so far.

Malinauskas said while it was difficult to talk about the impending “human tragedy”, the water would also bring “profound environmental benefits” through the stripping of Murray’s mouth and the flow of water into the Coorong. .

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