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Hunter River flood threat moves downstream -

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Hunter River flood threat moves downstream

AM - Monday, 11 June , 2007 08:03:00

Reporter: David Mark

TONY EASTLEY: The levee banks are holding in the Lower Hunter, but the flood danger isn't over. The
Hunter River peaked at Maitland last night below the level expected, sparing the low-lying areas of
the town.

This morning the threat has moved downstream though to towns of Hexham and Raymond Terrace. Huge
areas in the Lower Hunter are still under water and it's likely to be sometime before the thousands
of people who were evacuated from their houses last night can actually return home.

Meanwhile authorities are still trying to work out how to move the coal carrier, Pasha Bulker,
which ran aground at Newcastle on Friday.

David Mark reports.

DAVID MARK: Maitland residents were prepared for the worst, but the town's defences held. Steve
Delaney is the Manager of Public Communications for the New South Wales State Emergency Service.

STEVE DELANEY: Overnight the floodwaters didn't quite reach the predicted height of 11.4 metres at
the Belmore Bridge, which would have meant some major inundation for the city of Maitland, the
Central Maitland, South Maitland and Lorn areas.

However, they did reach 10.7, which meant that the spillways of the levee bank, which are designed
to take the pressure off the main levee, did actually activate, and for the last several hours,
we've had water overtopping those spillways, relieving that pressure.

DAVID MARK: Huge areas around Maitland are still underwater, but the homes of about 6,000 people,
who were evacuated from Maitland and Lorn, seems safe.

STEVE DELANEY: Once it becomes light and people can see and they can move around, most of them will
probably go on, have a look where they can of what's happening, and wait for the all-clear to go
back home.

DAVID MARK: Many of the residents are without power, and could be until the end of the week. 25,000
homes and businesses lost electricity in the Hunter to add to the 32,000 across the Central Coast.
At the same time, the returning residents have to contend with the raw sewerage, which has escaped
the flooded system.

STEVE DELANEY: You can imagine the amount of rubbish that's coming out of drains and out of gutters
and everywhere else. It's not just ... it's not just water. You know, it's one big ... you wouldn't
swim in a sewerage farm, and basically I can't understand people who play in floodwater.

DAVID MARK: And when can that situation be expected to abate, and for that matter, when will the
floodwaters abate?

STEVE DELANEY: Well, that's the wait-and-see question. They're holding for a fair while, and that's
the problem.

DAVID MARK: Are you talking days, weeks?

STEVE DELANEY: No. At this stage, it's hours. But you know, it's ... instead of just being one or
two, it's several, and that's the problem.

DAVID MARK: As the flood peak moves downstream, so has the threat.

STEVE DELANEY: You know, there may be some areas in Hexham and in the Raymond Terrace area where
we'll be analysing very closely. And those areas that will be at risk, or we consider to be a risk,
will be contacted by us.

We'll be doorknock ... so that if you're not doorknocked, you shouldn't really worry today.

DAVID MARK: The Prime Minister John Howard, will inspect the storm-affected and flooded areas of
the Hunter today. The death toll from the storms is still nine after a family of five was killed in
their car on Friday, and another four people died in three separate accidents.

Meanwhile just outside the mouth of the Hunter River, the 40,000-tonne coal carrier, Pasha Bulker,
still looms over Newcastle's popular Nobby's Beach after running aground there when the storm hit
on Friday.

Conditions have calmed down and a salvage team is on board the ship deciding what to do next, as
Keith Powell, the Public Affairs Officer for the Newcastle Port Corporation explains.

KEITH POWELL: The plans will come from the salvage team that are aboard the vessel, as they carry
out a detailed assessment.

DAVID MARK: Will it be possible to drag the Pasha Bulker off the sandbank where it's grounded?

KEITH POWELL: That is what the salvage team is looking at, at the present moment. They will assess
all the structure and the integrity of the vessel, and then it will be up to that salvage team to
make recommendations about the salvage.

DAVID MARK: When is it expected that the salvage team will make a decision about what to do with
the ship?

KEITH POWELL: That's a little bit difficult to say at the present moment. As you realise, they have
a huge amount of work to do aboard the vessel. They're working very, very hard on that at the
present moment, and we will get you know, progressive reports through the day. So, it's too
difficult to say, you know, when a final decision will be made.

TONY EASTLEY: The Public Affairs Officer for the Newcastle Port Corporation, Keith Powell, ending
David Mark's report.