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Flood warning systems ineffective: report

By Peta Carlyon and staff, Thursday October 18, 2012 - 20:40 EDT
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The Numurkah hospital was flooded before any warnings were issued. - ABC

A review has found this year's flood disaster in Victoria's north-east could have been better managed.

The 2012 North East Victoria Flood Review identifies shortcomings in training and effective communication among emergency agencies, including incompatible information systems and different radio frequencies.

The towns of Numurkah and Nathalia were among the hardest hit by the record floods.

The report says Numurkah had ineffective warning systems and that the response in each town was very different.

It found warnings and emergency responses were effective in Nathalia, but not in Numurkah, where the hospital was flooded before any warnings were issued.

Emergency Services Commissioner Michael Hallowes says authorities did not receive relevant information about the situation in Numurkah as the flood approached.

"There were no flood gauges that were relevant to Numerkah as a town and therefore there was no accurate information coming in technically," he said.

"Yes there was intelligence coming from the community. Whether that was acted on effectively is debateable but there was an over reliance on the technical data that was coming in without a caveat there to say well actually there are no gauges so you're basing it on your best assumptions of past history."

The report also found responding members of the State Emergency Service were not properly trained and there was a lack of emergency coordination in Numurkah.

Despite the late evacuations, Mr Hallowes is adamant lives were not put at risk.

"Numurkah had not flooded in this way before and somehow you have to draw a very difficult line in making decisions about how you're going to prioritise and that's what's happened here," he said.

Tyson Woods is the publican of the Numurkah Hotel. He says many in the town felt let down and frustrated by the emergency response.



"One of the main issues was basically that not using local resources in regards to the SES. It looked like they had their handbook they were using and it didn't take on local knowledge, so that hurt and upset a lot of people," he said.

Mr Woods says the community remains upset and must be reassured.

"People just want to be listened to because we are on that flood plain and there is nothing stopping another one happening down the track so, if outsiders are going to come in and try and help, they need to listen to the locals that know where the water will go and it will prevent - it may not stop it - but it will help prevent certain areas getting flooded," he said.

Mr Hallowes says he is confident the SES is making the necessary improvements.

He says authorities did everything they could in such unexpected circumstances.

"I am very concerned for the community of Numurkah who, there are certain interest groups there who have a strong belief that the hospital could have been saved," he said.

"From what I have seen, there is no way the hospital could have been saved."

The Numurkah Hospital has been operating out of tents until recently and will officially re-open next week.


- ABC

© ABC 2012

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