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Victoria's freak floods prompt 1,400 calls for help, more storms hit Melbourne suburbs

Sunday December 16, 2018 - 00:38 EDT

Authorities say Victoria's State Emergency Service received more than 1,400 calls for help during 48 hours of wild weather that damaged buildings, flooded streets and closed a stretch of the Hume Freeway, where stranded motorists were rescued by helicopter.



Heavy rain caused flash flooding and building damage in inner Melbourne late on Friday afternoon after parts of regional Victoria experienced flooding on Thursday.

"There aren't too many parts of the state that have been spared the impact of the weather event we have seen over the last 48 hours," Victoria's Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said.

On Saturday afternoon, a severe thunderstorm warning was reissued for Melbourne and more than half of the state.

The Bureau of Meteorology said cities and towns that could be hit by more wild weather and flash flooding included Horsham, Warrnambool, Bendigo, Seymour, Maryborough, Ballarat, Geelong, Traralgon and Bairnsdale.



The SES said it had received 250 reports of building damage after the storm in Melbourne, and 25 people had been rescued after becoming trapped in floodwaters.

"We received in excess of 400 requests within the Melbourne metro area between 4:30pm and 8:30pm [on Friday], when the metro area received 34 millimetres of rain in 15 minutes," SES state duty officer Chris Brockwell said.

"If we do get more heavy rain [on Saturday], the ground's already wet, so the water won't have anywhere to go, so it's likely that flash flooding could still occur today."



Friday's downpour was so severe, emergency services issued a warning to people in the CBD and inner-east of the city to stay indoors.

The rainfall has also prompted warnings not to swim at bayside beaches, after the heavy rains flushed litter, animal waste and chemicals into Port Phillip Bay.

All bay beaches are likely to have poor water quality for the next week as a result of the rainfall, the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) said.



"We know most people aren't keen for a swim while it's cold and raining, but poor water quality can persist for many days after the rain event when the weather may have improved," the EPA's Alison Kemp said in a statement.

The clean-up is also continuing in parts of regional Victoria, including Birchip in the state's north-west, where 35 homes were flooded on Thursday.

The township recorded 130mm of rain in a 24-hour period.

In the north-east, community meetings were being held in Beechworth and Tarrawingee to discuss future road closures after the floods.



The rain closed the Hume Freeway near Wangaratta on Thursday, and several people were stranded on the freeway between rising floodwaters.

Some had to be taken to safety in a high-rail vehicle on train tracks, and others were rescued by helicopter after climbing onto the roofs of their cars.



At the time, Mr Crisp criticised the "foolish decisions" of those drivers, but some said they had followed the directions of police before becoming stranded.

On Saturday, Mr Crisp acknowledged not all of those drivers had been foolish.

"I know those people have suffered some considerable distress, given their situation and … my comments, if you felt they were directed towards you [and they have] caused you additional distress, then I apologise for those particular comments," he said.


- ABC

© ABC 2018

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