australia

‘Devastating’: Traralgon evacuates again as power outage drags on, second body found in flood water

Nina Barak.

Nina Barak.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said search and rescue officers found a body, believed to be that of missing 20-year-old woman Nina Barake, in the water around 10:40 a.m. Mrs Barake was last seen leaving her home in nearby Simpson in a white ute with her dogs on Wednesday.

Emergency services have received 8,100 requests for help since Wednesday, 1,900 of which are still active, and there have been 42 rescues in the past 24 hours.

SES Commander Jackson Bell said: “This will certainly be a record for us as a state.

“Most that remain are for fallen trees, building damage and, of course, flooding,” he said.

Commander Bell is calling on people in affected areas to be aware of power lines during the cleanup period.

“When people start going back to their properties and cleaning up, stay away from foreign power lines because we know some may still be alive,” he said.

AusNet spokeswoman Helena Lilley said Friday afternoon that more than 86,300 people were still without power.

“The worst affected areas are Croydon, Lilydale, Leongatha and Mordialloc, but the list is very long,” she said.

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Residents in the Traralgon area were given another evacuation warning at 12:40 a.m., pending major flooding overnight and Saturday morning.

Tim Wiebusch, Victoria SES’s chief operations officer, said the onset of the river flooding is of great concern.

Emergency services have knocked on houses and relocated a caravan park in Sale, where the Thompson River is expected to hit the town Friday night.

On the outskirts of Melbourne, the Healesville-Yarra Glen Road was closed on Friday and the racecourse and 20 properties were expected to be at risk, Mr Wiebusch said. Flood warnings were lowered to moderate Friday night.

On Friday night, a major flood warning remained for Traralgon Creek. There was also a flood warning for Sale.

Mr Wiebusch said the biggest challenge on Friday was the Traralgon community as, as the river receded and the Princes Highway had reopened, more rain was forecast.

That forecast includes 80 to 100 millimeters of rain for the Traralgon watersheds later Friday and overnight, when major flooding is expected to return.

“It’s been a rough few days for southern parts of Victoria, including Gippsland, and unfortunately there’s a lot more rain and wind to come,” Bureau of Meteorology senior meteorologist Dean Narramore said Friday afternoon.

“People can wake up again in the early hours of Saturday morning to flooded homes and communities.”

Mr Narramore said that while winds would not be as strong as the 100kph gusts seen Wednesday evening, strong winds on Friday evening could cause more trees to fall.

Les Davidson sweeps water in the front yard of his home in Traralgon after the recent flooding in the Latrobe Valley.

Les Davidson sweeps water in the front yard of his home in Traralgon after the recent flooding in the Latrobe Valley.Credit:Blake Bourne

Rain is expected to ease around lunchtime on Saturday.

Thirty homes have already been hit by flooding in Traralgon, in addition to homes in the Hazelwood and Maffra areas.

Les Davidson, a native of Traralgon, lost most of his possessions in the flood, including guitars, accordions and boxes of documents.

The floors of his house were also flooded when a trailer drove by on Thursday morning and waves of brown water slammed into the door.

Storm damage to the backyard of Les Davidson's Traralgon home following the recent flooding in the Latrobe Valley.

Storm damage to the backyard of Les Davidson’s Traralgon home following the recent flooding in the Latrobe Valley.Credit:Blake Bourne

Mr Davidson had tried to stop the driver to rescue him from the rising water.

“He just looked at me,” Mr. Davidson said. “I wanted to get out of here. I panicked.”

Traralgon Football Netball Club Chairman Kevin Foley examines damage to club areas from the recent flooding.

Traralgon Football Netball Club Chairman Kevin Foley examines damage to club areas from the recent flooding.Credit:Blake Bourne

He was eventually rescued by a fire truck and treated by paramedics.

At the nearby soccer field, water poured into the club rooms, picking up freezers and leaning them against the wall.

Traralgon Football Netball Club president Kevin Foley said the floods were the worst of four major floods he had seen in 28 years.

Foley watched a live surveillance camera on Thursday as the water flooded the field. It rose above the border fence and into the stands.

Power outages prevented some Victorian schools from opening Friday as coronavirus restrictions eased across the state.

Warrandyte High School and Anderson’s Creek Primary School were both closed. The schools posted messages on their Facebook pages on Thursday evening saying they hoped the electricity would come back on Tuesday when students returned from the Queen’s Day long weekend.

A general view of storm damage to the Traralgon Football Netball clubrooms following recent storms and floods.

A general view of storm damage to the Traralgon Football Netball clubrooms following recent storms and floods.Credit:Blake Bourne

Wendy Powson, principal of Lilydale High School, arrived at the school Thursday to find that it had no power and was littered with fallen trees, including one that fell on a toilet block.

Two people have died in flooding in the last 24 hours.

Gippsland flood victim Brian Gilliland.

Gippsland flood victim Brian Gilliland.

On Thursday afternoon, a rescue team recovered the body of 69-year-old Brian Gilliland in the South Gippsland town of Woodside, about 70 kilometers from Traralgon. Bystanders reported that a vehicle was nearly submerged. The family of the father of four told Nine News “he was the kind of man who would lend a hand and didn’t expect anything in return”.

Ms Barake’s body was discovered in floodwaters following a public request for information after she failed to arrive at work on Wednesday.

Acting Prime Minister James Merlino urged residents of flood areas to heed any warnings.

“It was very special to get out of the house this morning and drive through the Dandenongs. Just massive trees over houses across the road,” Mr. Merlino said.

“If there is an evacuation warning, please leave.”

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