Emergency Management Victoria’s (EMV) response to the Traralgon floods has come under fire after failures in the warning system put lives at risk.
In State Parliament this week, The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region Melina Bath asked the Labor Government to explain why EMV’s flood warning system for Traralgon failed to be activated before floodwaters had reached dangerous levels.
The first evacuate order wasn’t issued until 10.30am on June 10 – at least four hours after the water level in the Traralgon Creek was reported to be at 4.2m and rapidly rising.
Ms Bath said it led to widespread devastation for residents, businesses and community groups.
“Residents have told me how they had to stop elderly neighbours getting into their vehicles and driving through flood waters when the evacuation was finally issued,” Ms Bath said.
“Others talk of the treacherous road conditions with streets grid locked and sandbags attempting to be distributed to homes that were already inundated.
“This break down in communications is much more than a ‘gap’ in the emergency management system – it’s a failure that could have cost lives.”
Traralgon residents, through the Latrobe City Council, previously had an award-winning comprehensive flood warning system in place, but the responsibility was transferred from Council to EMV.
The Victorian Government’s EMV Traralgon local flood guide is designed to alert known impact area residents, business and community groups with ‘at least 6 hours warning of peak flood at Traralgon’.
Ms Bath said through negligence or incompetence this did not happen, despite the weather warnings issued by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).
“When the BOM forecast significant rainfall in the Traralgon Creek catchment it should have triggered a series of immediate actions which included real time instream monitoring, issuing of warnings and evacuation orders, sandbag distribution and road blocks – which did not happen,” Ms Bath said.
“But EMV issued its first ‘evacuate now’ order four hours after families had water gushing through their homes and streets.”
Ms Bath said the flood response was chaotic and lacked coordination.
“The timing of the evacuate now notification placed people at risk – the Traralgon Creek was running fast and hard and it was unsafe for families to leave their homes,” Ms Bath said.
“After realising its serious fail – EMV issued a barrage of ‘evacuate now’ messages to the Traralgon community over the next 48 hours.
“As one local resident said to me – ‘if Emergency Management Victoria service were not reacting with a major flood event occurring under their noses – how on earth were residents supposed to know and prepare.”