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Body found in submerged car as rescuers search for flood victims in eastern Victoria

Thursday June 10, 2021 - 12:43 EST
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Police and ambulance helicopters have been used to winch people to safety who have been caught in floodwaters. - ABC

A man has been found dead in floodwaters as emergency services carried out dramatic rescues in Victoria's storm-lashed Gippsland region.

Police were called to Starlings Lane, Woodside, in eastern Victoria, about 1.45pm on Thursday when a member of the public alerted them to a vehicle almost submerged in floodwaters.

Officers confirmed a man, possibly in his 60s, was with the vehicle.

A rescue team recovered the body and investigating police will prepare a report for the coroner. 

The news comes after a dramatic 24 hours of widespread flash flooding across Gippsland, including helicopter rescues, with Traralgon in the Latrobe Valley one of the hardest-hit areas.

The Traralgon Creek, which flows through the town, has caused major flooding and emergency authorities have ordered residents from about 200 homes to leave.

Traralgon resident Gemma Moran evacuated her home in a small boat with her six-week-old baby and three-year-old daughter, Annie.

"My partner and daughter came in and woke me up and said, 'You need to look outside the window'.

"I said, 'I'm half asleep, leave me alone.' But they said, 'No ? you need to look outside.'

"And our whole court was under already," she said.

"Our house is elevated so the water was up on our bottom step. The front yard, driveway and court was already under. I walked out to our backyard which had started to go under as well.

"Within an hour-and-a-half, it had risen right up. Our whole back end of our house is a bit lower, so water started coming in there.

'Frantically running around'

"It was easy for us to get out of our house and onto the little boat to get out, but when I left, there was water inside [the house]," she said.

"A few years ago, there was another flood at the underground car park of the plaza. But it didn't get this bad."

Ms Moran said her newborn son Patty slept the whole time during the evacuation.

"I was frantically running around my house trying to quickly pack a suitcase with some nappies and formula.

"We left and I was a wreck because I had left my partner behind; he was there with our dog. It was like the unknown, I didn't know what I was going back to.

"I haven't seen my partner yet, but he has since been rescued. He's at my Mum's house and I'm at my brother's at the moment, so we'll head back now to see him.'

"I've been able to bathe the kids so they're nice and warm.

"Once we got out of the boat near Shakespeare Street, the ambulance were there waiting so we jumped straight in there and they took us to the basketball stadium where we met my mum."

'Don't wait around'

Ms Moran urged those caught up in flood affected areas to leave early.

"I wish I had had left sooner. Like when I first woke up this morning, I was hoping it was going to get better and we would have been able to stay there," she said.

"So my word of advice would be just leave as soon as you can. Don't wait around, it's not worth it. Your stuff is replaceable, your family isn't."

Meanwhile, residents of Shakespeare Street have about 30 centimetres of water inside their homes.

Ingrid Snell, who lives on Shakespeare Street, right on the Traralgon Creek flats, said she was disturbed about 6:00am.

"My husband went outside and he had a look around and he said, 'It's coming','" she said.

"So he got his car out as far as what we could. But unfortunately, it wasn't far enough so we lost both cars.

"We just prepared everything and put our things up as high as we could.

"Then we waited and watched it rise.

"While we waited, the SES and police went by a couple of times and then they came back about and rescued us from our house.

"I've lived in that house for 30 years, and we haven't had water in that house in that time," Ms Snell said.

"But my husband has lived there all his life and they have had water in that house twice in his life."

Residents say they had little warning

Traralgon resident Alan Scarlett has lived in George Street since 1991 and said the speed in which the floodwaters rose was unusual.

"Earlier this morning, we saw a builder's skip float down the road," he said.

"Neighbours across the road have had their four wheel drive pushed by the floodwater, down the street into a tree and another car has also been wedged against that tree.

"During the night, we were checking the flood levels and the information that was on the Bureau Of Meteorology website suggested there was going to be a peak of 4.8 meters Thursday afternoon, that's this afternoon.

"By seven o'clock this morning, there was at least 30 centimeters of water flowing down the street. And now there's at least half a meter of water flowing down the street.

"Well, if we had enough warning, we'd get our cars out to higher ground."

Another George Street, Traralgon resident David Hibbert said his property backs onto the Traralgon Creek.

"When I woke up this morning, I had a look out on to the Traralgon Creek?and it had risen significantly over a short amount of time. So, we spoke about moving some cars and, and some things like that. But within no time at all, the road at the front became flooded. And really, we had no choice but to just stay where we were."

Helicopter rescues

Police and ambulance helicopters have been used to winch people to safety who have been caught in floodwaters.

SES Gippsland regional manager Anthony McClean said the helicopters had rescued people trapped in their cars after they tried to drive through flood water.

"So we've had two air resources involved in the Traralgon area, winching some people from vehicles and other locations in the area.

"Some are in vehicles that have unfortunately driven through floodwater, others on roads, but also others in houses that have been rescued because of floodwater who have been inundated in their houses," Mr McLean said.

"We are prioritising life threatening emergencies over everything else."


© ABC 2021

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