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Woman's body found in floodwater as Victoria's storm toll rises, further rain expected overnight

Friday June 11, 2021 - 19:56 AEST
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Authorities say if you are travelling by car, do not enter flooded areas. - ABC

A woman's body has been found in floodwaters in Glenfyne, south-west Victoria, becoming the state's second fatality as authorities continue to issue flood warnings ahead of further rain and wind expected into the weekend.

Police said the woman's body was found in a vehicle by Search and Rescue officers off Maddens Bridge Road at 10:40am on Friday.

While yet to be formally identified, police believe the body is a woman who went missing from Simpson on Wednesday.

"The exact circumstances surrounding the woman's death are yet to be determined but police are not treating it as suspicious," Victoria Police said.

On Thursday, a man in his 60s was found dead at Woodside in eastern Victoria, after police were notified about a car submerged in water.

VicEmergency issued a warning for residents and visitors in Traralgon to evacuate immediately due to risk of "major flooding" overnight and into Saturday.

It said the Traralgon Creek at Traralgon was currently below the minor flood level, with renewed rises occurring.

"Further rapid river level rises likely with minor to moderate flooding expected to develop in the early hours of Saturday," the warning, issued at 5:00am AEST on Saturday, said.

"Major flooding is possible from Saturday morning, may be similar to Thursday's flood event."

A major flood warning was issued for the Thomson River downstream of Wandocka. A separate flood warning was issued for Sale.

There are minor flood warnings in place for for Gippsland and other areas.

"It's been a tough few days for southern parts of Victoria including Gippsland, and unfortunately there's a bit more rain and wind to come," said Dean Narramore, a senior meteorologist with the Bureau of Meteorology.

Mr Narramore said the wind and rain would not be as extreme as that experienced on Wednesday and Thursday, but that communities impacted by floods could see renewed river level rises.

"We're expecting most of this rain to fall in the overnight hours, which means people could be waking up once again to flooded homes and communities in the early hours of Saturday morning," he said.

"We're not expecting major flood impacts for the Melbourne metro area."

Mr Narramore said the rain was expected to clear by Saturday afternoon, with clear and calm conditions on Monday and Sunday.

Emergency services 'working around the clock'

Thousands of Victorians woke up on Friday in the cold and dark for the second morning in a row after wild weather cut power to properties across Melbourne's outer east, Gippsland and Central Victoria.

Acting Premier James Merlino thanked SES workers working "incredibly hard in dangerous situations" over the past 48 hours, "working around the clock to respond to callouts, to make homes and communities safer, as the cleanup starts".

Mr Merlino said his thoughts and prayers were with the family and friends of a Gippsland man who died.

Over the past 48 hours there had been 7,400 requests for assistance and there remained 121,000 homes without power, Mr Merlino said.

Victoria SES Chief Officer Tim Wiebusch said there had been 42 flood rescues over the past 48 hours and there remained around 2,500 requests for assistance still needing to be cleared.

Flood warnings would remain in place for parts of Victoria ahead of expected rain overnight, he said.

"We can't emphasise enough ? stay in touch with your emergency broadcast, get the latest information from the Vic Emergency website, and stay in touch with the Vic Traffic application or website for latest road closures," Mr Wiebusch said.

"Just a reminder that regardless of the COVID restrictions, if you do find yourself presented with an emergency warning or you are being asked to evacuate, you absolutely can leave your home to move to a safer location."

Hundreds who were evacuated from their homes in Traralgon spent the night with friends and family or in hotels.

COVID-19 restrictions prevented them from staying in an evacuation centre.

Gippsland residents have described the storm as the worst they've ever seen. Latrobe Valley farmer Thomas Beamish said he had never seen anything like Thursday's conditions.

"I've lived here all my life and, nah, we've never seen it," Mr Beamish said.

Gippsland braces as more rain forecast

Gippsland resident Leah Mether said people were just focused on survival.

"Everyone's just doing what they can to get through what looks like is going to be a few days of this," Ms Mether  said.

Latrobe City Council Mayor Sharon Gibson said the danger was not over yet.

"Things have eased a bit but we're due for more rain," Cr Gibson said.

 Emergency services and volunteers worked into the night clearing roads and restoring power.

AusNet said it could take up to a week for power to be restored to some homes.

SES commander Jackson Bell said they had spent the night preparing for another "big day" of wild weather.

"Yesterday, was pretty busy for our crews ? a number of flood rescues undertaken yesterday," Mr Bell said.

"We will continue to have a presence in the area. Over the coming days, there is a risk of further rainfall, which might lead to further rises in the area. 

"So, we are watching it pretty intently over the next 24 hours."

Mr Bell said they received about 50 calls to move livestock to higher ground, using our boats as well as vehicles.

He said their focus remained on restoring power and getting people back to their homes.

"This morning our attention remains at restoring power," he said.

"We know there are parts in Trentham, eastern metropolitan Melbourne, the Yarra Ranges and Dandenong still without power," he said.

"Approximately 160,000 people are still without power. 

"This weather system has caused widespread devastation across parts of our states. Some of those issues are complex and broad."

He said their focus remained on enabling service providers to access the infrastructure to restore power.

"There are still powerlines down," Mr Bell said.

"[It's] another hazard that is hindering our job at the moment."

He said hundreds of volunteers were assisting with the efforts.

Gippsland farmers hit by this week's floods are also assessing the extent of the damage to their properties and infrastructure. 

'Hundred lions roaring'

Marilyn Deller, 72, said she and her partner survived a near-total destruction of their three-storey house on the edge of the state forest in Kalorama, east of Melbourne, on Wednesday night.

Ms Deller said the sound of the wind was like a "hundred lions roaring at once".

"The kitchen window had blown in ? the wall and the ceiling came on in," she said.

"It fell on me. I am very bruised."

Ms Deller said the power had gone out and it was pitch black.

"For a millisecond of my life, I didn't know if I was going to be here or the hereafter," she said.

"At that moment it started ? it just seemed one tree after the other [falling]."


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