Traralgon Floods

Victorian emergency authorities have apologised to a community in eastern Victoria for issuing a flood evacuation order too late.

Key points:

  • Traralgon Creek peaked at 5.76 metres at 9am on Thursday, June 10
  • Residents say water was gushing through residential streets by 6:30am
  • However authorities did not issue an evacuation order until 10:30am

Residents say the Traralgon Creek broke its banks about 6:30am last Thursday and within 10 minutes water was gushing through streets.

An evacuation order was not issued for another four hours.

Traralgon's John Papenburg lives in George Street near the creek, and said when he got up about 6:00am "the creek was fairly well ready to spill".

"It came up in about 10 to 15 minutes," he said.

"I did alert the neighbour. They had cars parked on the street, but unfortunately by stopping to help others we lost a car in the process," he said.

Warning issued too late

At a community meeting on Sunday, emergency authorities revealed almost 600 properties were hit by last week's storm, with about 140 damaged, including 60 homes in Traralgon with structural damage.

On Wednesday evening, a moderate flood warning was predicted for Traralgon Creek.

An aerial shot of flooded residential streets
Authorities have apologised for issuing late evacuation orders to low-lying areas of Traralgon.(

Supplied: Jacob Backman

)

It was upgraded to a major flood warning at 2am stating the creek would reach its peak on Thursday afternoon.

At 6am, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said Traralgon Creek was "at 1.55 metres and falling", but the bureau's river data showed the creek had reached 3.53 metres by 5:45am and 3.96 metres 15 minutes later.

The Traralgon Creek peaked at 5.76 metres at 9am, and the evacuation order was issued at 10:30am.

Authorities apologise 

Traralgon incident controller Keith O'Brien from the State Emergency Service, admitted the flood warnings were too late.

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"We did get a rain event on here on the Traralgon Creek that was much faster and more damaging than we had anticipated," he said.

"The flood warning was slow and we apologise for that."

He said emergency services were busy answering calls for help from people who had driven into floodwater and were trapped in their cars, some of who had to be winched to safety by helicopters.

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"The team in the incident management centre were very focused on saving lives with vehicles in the water," Mr O'Brien said.

An older man wearing a blue shirt and a white incident controller vest
Traralgon flood incident controller Keith O'Brien, from the SES, admitted the flood warnings were late.(

Supplied

)

"The message about (the creek) impacting on houses didn't quite get through in time.

"We got them (the warnings) out as quick as we could, I acknowledge it was late."

'We weren't officially told to evacuate'

Ben Tunk lives near Traralgon Creek and was monitoring the VicEmergency app on that morning, but said it had been confusing.

"I was bombarded with about 45 different messages or different alerts from them so it was really hard to decipher what was specific to me," he said.

"We weren't officially told to evacuate.

"We didn't get any phone calls and we didn't get any doorknocks or anything else, any text messages."

He said the only real warning he got was from a police officer friend who called him in an unofficial capacity about 7am Thursday.

"His best advice, as a friend, was to get out, so we did but that's the only warning we got really," Mr Tunk said.

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"Probably the most frustrating thing is knowing that there's been a great deal of money and effort put in to developing early warning systems.

"There just seems to be no accountability about where that money or where that effort have gone."

A man with a boat
Mr Tunk says the only warning he got about the flooding was from a mate in the police force.(

ABC Melbourne: Patrick Rocca

)

Source : https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-06-15/traralgon-creek-flood-apology-gippsland/100213276

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