Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Floods in Melbourne 1963 ~ my memory

People using rowboats in main street Seaholme. 1963 Flood.

I apologise for the quality of these images, which are digital photos of a photocopy of an original newspaper article that I found on Microfiche at the State Library of Victoria in 2008. They are from The Age, Tuesday, 29 January, 1963.

At midday on 26 January (Australia Day) 1963 when I was twelve years old, after a freak hailstorm several days before had decimated farm crops in the outer metropolitan area and Melbourne had experienced ten days of a heat wave where the temperatures topped ninety-three degrees, there was a thunderous downpour. It rained and continued to rain over Melbourne until the dams had collected 616 million gallons and the Bureau of Meteorology declared that for the first time in many years there would be no water restrictions.
Two days later without warning, water contained in Kororoit Creek broke its banks and made its way south. It rushed down Millers Road, flooded Seaholme (see image above) and then spilled down Civic Parade, Altona where we lived. It didn’t stop there, it continued on down to the railway station and around our little Roman Catholic school, built on a square of concrete opposite the railway station.
Workers from the Altona shire council cut channels near the railway line at Seaholme to allow the flood waters to escape to the sea. During the next few days, we realized that it wasn’t only Altona that had been affected, much of Melbourne had been flooded and many families were forced to leave their homes.
The Age newspaper ran the story with graphic photos on two consecutive days, not on page one as expected, but on page three. STATE AID SOUGHT FOR FLOOD VICTIMS was the lead story, which outlined the possible health issues that might occur because of the swamping of septic tanks and rubbish.

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