A farmer's tractor stranded in floodwaters
A farmer was rescued after his tractor became stuck in floodwaters in Alexandra, Victoria. Image by HANDOUT/VICTORIA POLICE
  • weather

Bushfire risk turns to flooding, as residents evacuate

October 4, 2023

Residents in eastern Victoria have been told to evacuate their homes amid fears of a sudden increase in flooding, a day after the region faced bushfire threats.

People in Tinamba, Tinamba West, Newry, Mewburn Park, Bellbird Corner and Riverslea near Maffra have been told to leave immediately with flooding expected from 10pm on Wednesday.

An alert issued by Vic Emergency urged them to take their pets, mobile phones and medications, with the best evacuation route being Maffra-Sale Rd towards Sale.

A major flood warning has also been issued to residents along the Macalister River downstream of Lake Glenmaggie, with locals told to move to higher ground.

Total rainfall in that area was 150mm in the 24 hours to 9am on Wednesday and further rain was forecast into Thursday.

The river was at 5.75 metres and rising on Wednesday afternoon, with further planned releases from Lake Glenmaggie.

The State Emergency Service received more than 300 calls in the 24 hours to 2pm on Wednesday as rivers continued to rise and damaging winds lashed outer Melbourne and Gippsland.

Most calls for assistance were connected to flooding and building damage, according to state duty officer Shane McBride.

He said he was keeping a close eye on the entire Gippsland region and warned further evacuation orders may have to be issued.

“It’s really hard to say what’s it going to look like in the next 24 hours but there is more rain expected,” Mr McBride said.

He said extra volunteers were on standby in other locations to come and help if necessary.

A farmer had to be rescued from floodwaters on Tuesday night in Alexandra after getting into trouble while trying to rescue cattle on a tractor.

Footage from the incident showed the vehicle stranded in gushing water metres away from what appeared to be a dirt road.

The 43-year-old Alexandra man suffered injuries non life-threatening and was taken to hospital.

Warnings for fires at Briagolong and Loch Sport were downgraded to advice level, with the focus firmly on flood risk zones after about 100 millimetres of rain fell in the area.

Watch-and-act alerts for flooding were issued across eastern Victoria for as far north as the King River at Cheshunt and as far south as the Latrobe River at Rosedale, near Traralgon.

Alerts were also issued for the Yarra River on the outskirts of Melbourne and the Goulburn River upstream of Lake Eildon.

Emergency Services Minister Jaclyn Symes said the situation was dynamic.

“We have, in good news, downgraded emergency warnings for fire,” Ms Symes told reporters at state parliament.

“We’ve had a lot of rain across the state and that has brought flood concerns and flash flooding concerns.”

The Bureau of Meteorology placed Melbourne and most of the state’s east under flood watch with more rain expected.

Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said she was working closely with providers to ensure the wild weather and natural disasters had minimal impact on energy supply.

Conditions were expected to ease from Thursday but flooding was tipped to last until the weekend.

The flood threat comes after many residents in Gippsland were put on alert for fires.

About 700 firefighters spent three days battling two blazes, with one home lost in Briagolong but no reports of serious injury.

The cause of that blaze, which burnt about 17,500 hectares, is under investigation.