Twin rescues as floods, wild weather batter Victoria

Flooding at the Port of Sale on Friday morning.

Flooding at the Port of Sale on Friday morning. Photo: Facebook/Wellington Shire Council

Two people have been plucked from the roof of their floating vehicle in Victoria’s flood-hit east, while another three have been rescued in a dramatic ocean operation.

Two men were rescued uninjured on Friday morning after driving into Mitchell River floodwaters near Bairnsdale.

SES acting chief officer David Baker said their vehicle was swept away by strong currents.

“We did have a disturbing incident this morning,” he said.

“Luckily it was caught against a fence line, so it didn’t travel any further. They made it onto the roof [and] were able to call emergency services and we were all to do what we do best with the police.

“It is a very salient reminder — never enter floodwaters, always choose an alternative route.”

Meanwhile, a captain and two crew were been rescued from their stricken pilot launch off Port Lonsdale in southern Victoria after their boat ran aground early on Friday.

The Port Phillip Sea Pilot launch was destroyed 400 metres offshore, and the three men left stranded on rocks for hours about 1.30am.

Trio rescued after launch runs aground

Friday’s twin rescues came as flooding and cold weather continued across eastern Victoria. Up to 250 millimetres of rain has fallen in parts of the state since last weekend.

On Thursday night, emergency services went door to door at 120 properties south of the Port of Sale to warn of looming flooding. There were also more than 100 calls to the SES.

The swollen Macalister, Thomson and Latrobe rivers converge at the Port of Sale.

By Friday midday, emergency authorities said they thought the flooding had peaked in Gippsland. But, a dozen watch and act alerts remained active.

“Peaking does not mean the floodwater risk is gone, it just means it is not expected to rise any further,” Baker said.

The Mitchell River peaked at about 6.5 metres on Friday morning, and was falling by the afternoon.

The Thomson River is expected to peak at a moderate level of three metres in Sale, rather than reaching major flood levels as earlier feared. There is still the potential for up to 60 homes to be inundated.

“Luckily for us, there is no more water coming into the system … The big tap in the sky has turned off and we’re grateful for that,” Baker said.

“What is currently in the river systems, it will wash itself through, flush flew and we will see the floodwaters recede. We will continue to monitor it and support communities at local level, until it gets to a level that local
authorities can then manage, and do the inevitable clean-up and recovery.”

Evacuation warnings and orders remain across the region. Anyone who has left their home has been urged not to return until it is declared safe.

Once the floodwaters recede, crews will go into towns to inspect any damage.

“As soon as we’re comfortable for them to return, we will get those messages out to people. Stay away if you don’t need to be there,” Baker said.

There have been no reports of death or injury.

An alert for Tinamba, Tinamba West, Newry, Mewburn Park, Bellbird Corner, Riverslea and Maffra was downgraded to an advice message on Friday morning.

Residents were told it was safe to return to their homes but floodwaters, debris and other hazards might still be present.

The SES had said on Thursday that more than 100 homes near Maffra could have been inundated. At least three homes had water above floor-height in the Newry and Tinamba area, Baker said.

Victoria’s flood emergency came only days after 700 firefighters spent days battling two bushfires in Gippsland, with one home lost but no reports of serious injury.

There is also flooding in the state’s north, around Wangaratta. The Ovens River has peaked and authorities do not believe any houses have been inundated in that region.

Premier Jacinta Allan said emergency hardship payments were available to evacuees who needed reimbursement for essential items.

“Go to our Vic Emergency website or the Vic Emergency hotline. There are those emergency hardship payments there for support,” she said.

“It’s almost 12 months to the day that we saw those floods [last] come through Victoria.”

-with AAP

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