A man has died, and two volunteers are in hospital after a storm front wreaked havoc through eastern Victoria. Trees crashed onto homes, powerlines were cut, and in the Gippsland area, flood warnings were issued. On Thursday, emergency services were called to Starlings Lane in Woodside about 1.45pm after a public member discovered a vehicle almost submerged in floodwaters.
A rescue team found the man, possibly aged in his 60s, dead in the vehicle.
Victoria Police are investigating and will prepare a report for the coroner.
About 60 kilometers north, evacuation warnings remain in place as floodwaters are rapidly rising.
Emergency authorities strongly recommend that residents, workers, and holiday-makers evacuate near Traralgon Creek after parts of west Gippsland recorded rainfall totals over 270mm. With flooding expected to impact more than 220 homes, people have been told to travel to a safe location such as a family member or friend’s house. A relief center has been set up at the Traralgon Basketball Stadium for those with nowhere to go.
Traralgon Creek has risen to nearly six meters, although it is expected to fall below the primary flood level of 4.8 meters on Thursday evening. Other prominent flood warnings across the West Gippsland catchment include the Avon, Macalister, Thomson, and Latrobe rivers. Those already in a safe place are urged to stay put for the next 48 to 72 hours when most flooding is expected to move through communities.
By lunchtime Thursday, emergency services had already been called to a dozen flood rescues in Gippsland.
“We can’t emphasize enough that driving into floodwaters is the greatest risk you can take,” Victorian SES chief Tim Wiebusch said.
“That is the number one thing where we see fatalities during flooding.”
The SES has responded to about 6000 calls for help, and it’s expected to take days to clear the backlog.
Most of the calls were for fallen trees, though some were for flash flooding and building damage.
At Sherbrooke east of Melbourne, an ambulance was crushed by a falling tree as it raced to where a woman and her son were trapped. The paramedic was shaken but escaped injured, with the woman and her child later freed by police. Two SES members were not so lucky and had to be taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries after separate tree-related incidents. They are in a stable condition.