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VICSES volunteers respond to summer floods

16 January 2024

Victoria has begun the new year with the first nine days of January the wettest on record.

Much of the Loddon Mallee and Hume regions experienced significant flooding over the past week.  

The communities of Seymour, Yea, Rochester and surrounds were some of the hardest hit, with people in low lying areas evacuated earlier in the week as rivers rose to major flood levels – and where there is flooding in our state, there are Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES) volunteers. 

VICSES has around 5,000 volunteers who operate in communities right around Victoria and respond 24/7, 365 days a year. Over the past month, that has included responding to calls on the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Since the weather event began on Sunday, 7 January, VICSES received over 1,900 requests for assistance, with over 850 relating to flooding and over 500 for trees down. During this time, there was also an alarming number of people who drove through floodwater, with over 50 water rescues undertaken. 

“When it comes to floodwater, the message is clear – never attempt to enter or drive through floodwater, as it could be the last decision you make,” VICSES Chief Officer Operations Tim Wiebusch said.

With floodwaters receding and impacted communities now moving their focus to recovery, we reflect on the exceptional work and dedication of VICSES units across the state.  

“VICSES volunteers, along with other agency volunteers, are the backbone of our communities, because they are part of the communities where they locally respond and are the first touch point of many emergencies," Chief Officer Wiebusch said.

"All of our Victorian volunteers and agencies work as one, to provide better outcomes for communities on the ground.”

In addition to responding to storms and floods, VICSES also responds as the control agency to earthquakes, landslides and tsunamis and is the largest road rescue agency in Victoria.  

This week, Victorians can expect to see more severe weather, with thunderstorms possible across most of the state tomorrow. VICSES is encouraging communities to be prepared.  

“Before a storm hits, park your car undercover and away from trees, and check that loose items such as outdoor furniture are safely secured,” Chief Officer Wiebusch said.  

“Stay informed with the latest warnings by downloading the VicEmergency app.”

For more information, visit the VICSES website.