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ABC News
ABC News

CFA volunteer with ex-military vehicle helping Echuca community traverse floodwaters

The ride to school was more exciting for some Echuca students this week after an ex-military vehicle was used to help them travel through floodwaters in northern Victoria. 

The volunteer service runs twice a day from Warren Street in Echuca, through a 500-metre flooded stretch of road, to help school students get to the dry side of the road and to school. 

Country Fire Authority Commander Phil Rogan said the kids were delighted by the unconventional ride in a 1985 Unimog. 

"They were so excited," he said.

"Today we had 10 passengers and a mum who had an appointment to get to." 

Major flooding has significantly impacted the Echuca township, damaging dozens of homes and cutting off road access to community infrastructure and services.

Without the former army vehicle, people would have had to consider potentially unsafe methods of travel to get to school and into town. 

"We've got life jackets onboard, just in case," Commander Rogan said. 

"It's a far safer method than some of the creative ways locals are coming up with."

It has also helped people get to appointments, work, the gym and even a cemetery.

An unexpected ride

Vehicle owner and CFA volunteer Hardy Clemens said he dropped everything and drove to Echuca on Sunday when the authority put a call out.

He said it had been an unexpected and emotional ride.

"A man asked to go to his wife's grave with his grandkids," Mr Clemens said. 

"That was something we hadn't expected to provide a service for.

"On the Saturday morning, we were loading 16 people and all their sleeping gear in the back of Unimog, to take them across a metre-flowing river."

Trying to achieve normality

He said students had been enjoying their unusual ride to school.

"The kids make it easy … seeing the excitement on their face when they see the 'Mog' pull up," Mr Clemens said.

"They're taking photos, telling their friends." 

He said they had even asked if the ex-military vehicle could drive them all the way to the school gate. 

"It's not a joy-ride. It's a service to try and help kids get back to normal life," Mr Clemens said.

The vehicle may soon go to Swan Hill or other areas negatively impacted by floods. 

"It'll be in Echuca for the next three to four days, with the chance of being moved across the state as the flood develops in other areas," Commander Rogan said.

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