Record flooding 100 years ago

October 01, 2016

Streets of Benalla in flood in 1916

Tomorrow in 1916, John D. Rockefeller, co-founder of the Standard Oil Company, became the world’s first billionaire.

At its peak, the company refined more than 90 per cent of all oil in the United States.

Rockefeller had still amassed a worth well over $1000000000 despite the American Supreme Court ruling in 1911 that the Standard Oil Company was an illegal monopoly.

In the most famous anti-trust decision of all time, the company had been broken into 34 smaller companies, including Chevron, Exxon and Mobil.

Rockefeller’s worth amounted to about two per cent of the US Gross Domestic Product.

Bill Gates’ wealth does not even come close.

This week, a German Zeppelin made a forced landing in Essex.

It had been part of a Zeppelin group that had dropped 3.2 tonnes of bombs on London.

On its return, it was hit by an anti-aircraft shell and severely damaged.

Shortly after, a group of British night fighters attacked it and forced it down.

Its crew was the only armed enemy personnel to set foot in Britain during the Great War.

Meanwhile, in Benalla, 103mm of rain fell in less than 12 hours on Saturday night onto already sodden ground.

As a result, Benalla suffered its worst flood to that time, worse even than the flood of 1870.

By dawn on Sunday, people sleeping in a wagon in the showgrounds were awakened by find water flowing into their wagon.

They waded to higher ground through chest-deep water.

Two more were marooned in the grandstand until they could be rescued by boat.

By daylight, the business area of Benalla was under water.

In Miller’s shop, the water was over the counter where a large quantity of tobacco and new stock had been sitting.

At Miller’s intersection, the water stood 1.2 metres deep.

Residents in Carrier and Smythe Sts had to be rescued from their homes by boats.

The Tatong rail line was washed away at its junction with the main line.

The Yarrawonga rail line suffered worse.

It was washed out near Chesney for 6.5km.

Twelve Chinese market gardeners living at the lower end of Arundel St were found perched on the roof of their huts by rescuers arriving in boats.

Floodwaters covered the land on which the gasworks were built.

They also surrounded the Methodist Church in Carrier St and the Royal Hotel.

So there was no gas lighting and no Methodist church services. The hotel continued to serve liquid refreshments.

And still the rain fell.

By Sunday night another 250mm had fallen with heavier falls in the hills.

Other towns and areas suffered, too.

Echuca and Wangaratta were under water, five members of the same family drowned in Seymour and two children drowned at Pakenham.

— John Barry, Anzac Commemorative Working Party, Coo-ee — Honouring our WWI Heroes

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