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Incidence & Issues

Town reopened after terrifying flood risk

South Australian State Emergency Services have declared an overflowing dam in the Adelaide Hills no longer poses a threat to nearby homes and lives.

On Wednesday a dam in Echunga, located about 35 minutes from Adelaide, was at “high risk” of failure, posing a threat to the safety of residents in the surrounding area.

But by 1pm Thursday, emergency services said the dam no longer posed a flood risk to the local community after engineers completed an inspection of the site.
There were more than 100 SASES volunteers involved in the incident.

Craig Brassington, SASES Incident Controller, said the SASES acted quickly to prevent any damage from the collapsing walls of the dam.

“The SASES acted swiftly and efficiently when notified of the potential collapse of an earthen wall of the private dam on Tuesday evening,’’ Mr Brassington said.

“Our priority is always the safety of local communities and to minimise potential impacts on life and property.’’

Nearby residents in the area had been advised of the potential flood risk as emergency services door knocked the area. About 40 people left their homes.

“In situations like this we are required to plan for a worst-case scenario,’’ Mr Brassington said.

“As a result, we are responsible for the co-ordination of a significant number of people and resources across a wide range of organisations.

“The planning and execution of the response went smoothly and we were able to achieve a very satisfactory outcome.’’

The SASES on Wednesday urged those in the immediate path to relocate, with an emergency gathering point at the Echunga Football Club.
“Emergency Warning MESSAGE issued for dam failure at Echunga,” the SES wrote.

“If you are in this area, prepare for flooding. Relocate outside the warning area.”

The dam is about half a kilometre away from the main township of Echunga, which had a 2021 population of less than 2000.
An SES spokesperson said the walls of the dam were sagging on one side.

As of Wednesday morning, more than a dozen SES members were working at the scene.

SA Police had closed of all surrounding roads, including Aldgate-Strathalbyn Rd at Echunga Rd, Echunga Rd at Aldgate-Strathalbyn Rd, Battunga Rd at Meadows Rd, Strathalbyn Rd at Sophia St and Churchill Rd at Old Mount Barker Rd.
Police said floodwaters would rise rapidly and would likely be fast moving.

Senior Constable Kylie Simpson on Wednesday told ABC Radio that up to 20 homes were in high-risk areas and had been contacted by emergency services.

“Initially, it was said there’s about 80 homes around the area, but 15 or 20 are in this sort of high-risk zone,” Constable Simpson said.

“It’s a big dam and it’s on a hill, so the water will run down. They have been spending some time overnight trying to cut in and direct the water.”
The dam, on a private farm between Marianna St and Church Hill Rd, was holding about 10 megalitres of water, likely due to recent heavy rainfall.

SES state duty officer David O’Shannessy said engineers were on the scene assessing the situation as they worked on lowering the level of the dam.

On Thursday, it was revealed the SES had pumped approximately the whole 10 megalitres of water from the dam and created a spillway.

They had also transported 20 tonnes of sand to Echunga to fill sand bags.

Dam owners in the area are encouraged to keep a close eye on their water levels.


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