A 74-year-old woman was rescued from floodwaters at Elmore, Victoria.
A passer-by swam out to help rescue a 74-year-old woman whose car was swept into floodwaters. Image by HANDOUT/VICTORIA POLICE
  • weather

Floods swamp towns as kayaker found safe and well


January 9, 2024

The owner of an empty kayak found floating down a river in eastern Victoria is safe and well as the state’s flooding emergency intensifies.

Victorian SES Chief Officer of Operations Tim Wiebusch said authorities were alerted to an empty kayak floating down the Mitchell River near Dargo on Tuesday.

Police later confirmed the kayak’s male owner was found safe and well at Dargo about 6pm.

In central Victoria, a man risked his life by jumping into floodwaters to rescue a stranded 74-year-old woman.

Video screen grab of rescuer Mitchell Smith.
 Mitchell Smith says he is not a hero and hopes others would do the same if it were his grandmother. Image by HANDOUT/VICTORIA POLICE, 9NEWS 

Mitchell Smith spotted the woman in Bendigo Creek at Elmore and swam out to help, after her car was swept off a road and washed about 100 metres downstream in raging waters on Monday night.

“I sort of just reacted … and jumped into the water and made my way to her,” Mr Smith said.

He secured the Eaglehawk woman to a tree with a strap and the pair waited for about an hour before emergency crews in a boat arrived.

“She was saying her arms were starting to lose strength and she was becoming weak,” he said.

“I had to get something to hold her there otherwise if we both were in the water, I knew that I was going to struggle to save myself and her.”

Despite praise from police for risking his life, Mr Smith insists he’s not a hero.

“I was pretty comfortable with my swimming abilities and I was hoping if it was my grandma in the car I hope someone would do the same thing.”

Sandbags are prepared ahead of flooding in Seymour.
 Forestry workers prepare sandbags as the Victorian town of Seymour braces for flooding. Image by Diego Fedele/AAP PHOTOS 

He walked away from the ordeal a bit battered and bruised from getting swept through floodwaters but is doing OK.

Flash flooding is easing across the state but that brings the risk of riverine floods.

Major flood warnings are current for the Campaspe and Goulburn rivers, with residents in Rochester told to shelter in the highest location possible because it is too late to leave.

Freshwater supplies have been shut off to protect critical infrastructure but will be restored on Wednesday.

Rochester is still recovering from devastating October 2022 floods that impacted about 1000 properties.

The flood at Seymour peaked late on Monday at 6.8m with early estimates of about 20 homes flooded.

Waters there were expected to rise again to 6.2m on Tuesday evening, while at Murchison, the Goulburn River was expected to peak at 10.5m late on Wednesday morning.

Seymour residents have been told they can return to their homes.

An evacuation order for Yea has been downgraded but flood waters remain and it is not safe to return.

“Whilst the river levels have receded in some parts, we are still experiencing moderate flood levels and that means roads are still cut in a number of areas,” Mr Weibusch said.

The SES has received almost 1750 calls for help and carried out 52 flood rescues since Sunday.

Government assistance grants are accessible from local relief centres.

Premier Jacinta Allan visited the town of Goornong on Tuesday after flood waters receded.

“It’s a tough recovery,” she said. 

“There are people who have lost their homes, there are people who have lost assets around the property.”

Flooding has hit a large swathe of Victoria.
 Flooding has hit communities in Victoria as rivers rise following heavy rain. Image by Diego Fedele/AAP PHOTOS 

The state will ask for financial assistance from the Commonwealth after Queensland received $20 million for storm and cyclone recovery.

The emergency is expected to shift towards Maroopna and Shepparton on Wednesday before heading to Echuca.

Up to 20 homes could be inundated and 150 could by hit by street flooding in Kialla and Shepparton.

Victoria SES spokesman Jamie Devenish warned people to be aware of the dangers of “blue sky flooding” as waters continue rising despite fine conditions.

“It might look like a really nice day but that water’s got to go somewhere now and it will push down the catchments,” he said.