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ABC News
ABC News
Judd Boaz, Iskhandar Razak and Clint Jasper

As Victorian floodwater peaks in Echuca, a tight-knit community comes together

Echuca residents are facing the worst flooding event in their town for more than 30 years, as water reaches its peak.

The Murray River reached a height of 94.8 metres above sea level on Saturday at Echuca and Moama, exceeding the 94.77m it reached in the 1993 floods that devastated the towns. It then continued its slow and steady rise.

Evacuation warnings were issued for the town and its surrounds, but many residents stayed behind to protect their homes and each other. 

John McCann's home is on the wrong side of Echuca's new 2.5km flood levee, leaving his home exposed to some of the worst of the flooding.

Sunday was his birthday.

John's friends made him a birthday cake to celebrate, which he carried through flood waters back to his home.

All he had planned for his special day was to watch the pump keeping water out of his house.

Jemima Lewis and James Hayes did not let the wet conditions dampen their spirits.

"We're keeping up good spirits but the water has definitely come up in here a lot overnight, so we're just pumping it out every hour," Jemima said.

"Friday it was only on the nature strip, and then Saturday it was up in [the front yard]."

Jemima said the impacts of the flood had been a "slow burn".

"Your tolerance as a human, you get used to things really quickly. It's kind of normal now, even though it's very abnormal," she said while leaning on the sandbags protecting her home.

"It's just the waiting game which is painful. Lots of gossip!"

The couple said the community's support for each other — whether through sharing food, a drink or just stories — had been heartwarming.

"The efforts in the whole community just in getting so many sandbags and so many people helped, it's unbelievable," she said.

"I really hope that it stays and we continue that tight-knit bonding that we've developed now into the future, because that's what makes a regional area a wonderful place to live."

The pair put some good vibes back out into the community, throwing a rave in their front yard on Saturday night even as water reached visitor's ankles on the dancefloor.

"People came out from everywhere, standing up there and taking videos, even if they didn't come into the swamp," Jemima said.

"You just forget about the chaos going on around you for a couple of hours."

The community spirit has been clear on every street corner in town.

Kathy Kostoglou has lived in the area for 23 years and runs a pharmacy in town, keeping a vital supply of medications open for residents.

While she said she considered herself lucky that by Saturday afternoon her home had avoided serious flood damage, some of her neighbours were not as lucky.

"They’ve all been fully affected, water is in their houses, they’ve evacuated to Melbourne because they’re so disturbed and they know it’s not over yet," Kathy said.

"I don’t think we’re out of the worst of it yet and the anticipation is knocking us around."

In her spare time, Kathy said she was making dozens of meals for neighbours who have been affected by the floods, whipping up Greek lasagne for anyone that needs it.

“Food is scarce at the minute here and we’ve obviously not got a lot of things open,” she said.

“I’m already thinking ‘how are we going to help people in Rochester, how are we going to help people in Echuca?’”

Kathy said she had been kept up all night by the adrenaline, constantly brainstorming ways to help out a town that fills her with pride. 

"We have the best community, I’m so honoured to live here. I am so privileged to be a part of Echuca-Moama," she said.

“What I’m witnessing from our town pulling together … is that how they built the pyramids? A lot of hands make life easy.”

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