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Victoria's SES volunteers see busiest two years in 70 year history

Tuesday November 16, 2021 - 22:49 AEDT
ABC image
Ballarat man Sanh Thai called SES after a tree fell on the side of his home in the late October storm. - ABC

Wild storms across Victoria's mid-west region have put Victoria's SES volunteers under the pump, and for Ballarat in particular, call-outs have been through the roof.

Throughout the pandemic, the volunteer service has seen a 25 per cent increase in call-outs in the state's mid-west region, with more than2,600 calls in the past year alone.

Of those, the Ballarat Unit has been the busiest, with 1,042 calls for assistance.

But the state's SES CEO Stephen Griffin said the high number of call-outs was no surprise given recent storms.

"Those weather events have been more intense," Mr Griffin said.

"They've been more violent and some of the issues ? particularly around trees down and the wild winds we've experienced over that period."

Mr Griffin said it hasbeen especially difficult with recent storms occurring"almost cyclically" every fortnight andputting pressure on volunteers.

Still waiting for permanent fix

One of the most recent weather events that saw a spike in SES call-outs, was the thunderstorms in late October.

The system that brought100kphwinds, heavy rain and hail wreakedhavoc on the south west of the state and resulted in285 requests for assistance to the SES within 48 hours in the Ballarat region alone.

Almost three weeks later, the clean-up was still continuing.

Ballarat man Sanh Thaiwas one of the hundreds of SES call-outsafter a tree fell on the side of his home.

The SES volunteers had put in a temporary insulatorto stop rain pouring into his roof and again last week another person came and put up a tarp.

He was glad for the temporary measures, but18days later hestill hadno permanent fix and he wasworried damage would still be done.

"Since the storm hit, already some water has gone in [to the ceiling and house]," he said.

That water has leaked into his lounge and spread through the roof causing flooding in his kitchen and laundry.

Mr Thai said he would still have to wait another week until his insurance assessor would come out and assess the damage to his house and how to fix it.

"I'm worried ? If they fix it early then the house [won't be] damaged too much, but if they [take] longer, maybe the house will be damaged more."

"I'm just worried more big rain will make the house more damaged... But the blue tarp [from SES] helps."

Volunteers under pressure

Internal VICSES data showed the 'COVID years' of 2019-2021 were two of the top three busiest years in its history.

Volunteers and staff put in 500,000 hours in the past twelve months, with the vast majority responding to storms.

Statewide, VICSES saw a 'massive 27 per cent increase' in call-outs over the past two years compared to the previous two year period.


© ABC 2021

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