The State Government has refused to take responsibility for failures in the Traralgon flood emergency response that threatened lives.
New evidence has exposed communications problems within Emergency Management Victoria that led to a more than four hour delay in local residents being told to evacuate their homes.
The first evacuate order wasn’t issued until 10.30am on June 10 – despite the water level in the Traralgon Creek reported to be at 4.2m and rapidly rising by 6am that morning.
Two State Government Ministers were pressured for a response in State Parliament this week, but refused to take responsibility or explain what led to the breakdown in communication.
Traralgon residents, through the Latrobe City Council, previously had an award-winning comprehensive flood warning system in place, but the responsibility has been removed from Council and handed 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”.
This did not happen, despite extreme weather warnings issued by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).
After realising its serious failure, EMV issued 22 evacuate now messages to the Traralgon community – 19 of these coming after the flood water had subsided.
It lead to widespread devastation for residents, businesses and community groups.
Comment attributable to Shadow Minister for Emergency Services Tim Smith
When the BOM forecast significant rainfall in the Traralgon Creek catchment it should have triggered a series of immediate actions like real time instream monitoring, issuing of warnings and evacuation orders, sandbag distribution and road blocks.
But none of this happened.
EMV issued its first evacuate now order four hours after families had woken to water gushing through their homes and streets.
Locals deserve an explanation and a commitment that change will be implemented to keep them safe in the future.
Comment attributable to Member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath
The Traralgon Creek was running treacherously fast by the time residents were told to evacuate.
By then, it was unsafe for families to leave their homes.
Residents have told me how they had to stop elderly neighbours getting into their vehicles and driving through flood waters, despite receiving the alert to evacuate just minutes earlier.
This break down in communications is much more than a ‘gap’ in the emergency management system – it’s a dangerous failure that could have cost lives.