Victoria has endured its wettest month on record, the State Emergency Service says, as it warned the flood risk may continue across the state for up to two months.
On Tuesday the SES’s chief of operations, Tim Wiebusch, said October was both Victoria’s wettest month on record and the busiest for his volunteers.
“October was the biggest month on record for volunteers, and this is off the back of what is now regarded as Victoria’s wettest month on record,” Wiebusch said during a state control centre briefing.
“SES volunteers have now responded to 13,689 requests for assistance during October.”
The previous record was set a year earlier during the June 2021 storms, when there were more than 10,700 requests for help, largely in the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges.
Two Victorians had died in the floods, which began in mid-October, while thousands of homes had been inundated and millions of dollars worth of crops damaged.
While rain had eased, 85 emergency warnings remained in place, ranging from advice messages to evacuation warnings in Echuca on the Victorian-New South Wales border. Residents in flood-affected communities had also been warned of a gastroenteritis outbreak due to contaminated flood water.
Wiebusch said the flood emergency was “far from over”.
“We still have water storages that are at capacity, we’ve got catchments that are now saturated, and we still have the climate drivers of La Niña and also the negative Indian Ocean Dipole, which means that we are likely to see above average rainfall for at least another six to eight weeks,” he said.
“It will only take another large rainfall event for us to see our rivers in Victoria go back to major flood levels.”
He said communities along the Murray River would be at particular risk of moderate to major flooding in the coming days.
Thousands of sandbags had been distributed in Swan Hill, though Wiebusch said it was likely the town centre would probably be spared.
It comes as flood-affected businesses, charities and primary producers will be able to receive up to $200,000 in grants as part of an $877m support package announced by the state and federal governments on Tuesday.
Under the scheme, grants of up to $50,000 will be made available to eligible businesses and not-for-profit organisations to aid recovery efforts, including rebuilding infrastructure and replacing damaged assets.
Primary producers and rural landholders will be eligible for grants of up $75,000, while medium and large-sized businesses directly affected by the floods will be able to receive up to $200,000. This is in addition to concessional loans of up to $250,000, already announced by the federal government.
Affected sporting and recreational clubs will also be able to receive $5,000 to assist with their recovery as part of the new package, while $22m has been allocated to support services to facilitate the development of recovery plans, assist in grant applications and provide mental health support.
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said in a statement the additional grants would “ensure Victorian business can rebuild with confidence”.
“We’re making sure flood-affected business owners and communities have the support they need to rebuild and return to trade as quickly and safely as possible,” said the premier, Daniel Andrews.
Federal government support payments of $1,000 for an adult and $400 for a child have been available for residents of dozens of local government areas for several weeks, while the Victorian government has provided one-off payments of $5,000 for affected small businesses and $10,000 for primary producers.
Any grant received through the existing Victorian programs will be included in the maximum amounts available in the latest round on offer.
Victoria’s emergency services minister, Jaclyn Symes, said the government would contact those who had applied for the initial grants to let them know they were eligible for additional funds.
In addition to the $877m package, the state government will spend $152m to support flood-affected Victorians with housing, household bills and legal support.