‘Potential catastrophic failure’: Fears of Torquay dam collapse force residents to flee

Dozens of Surf Coast families were forced to flee their homes on Friday night over fears a private dam could collapse.

More than 100 Torquay residents were advised to leave their homes after emergency crews assessed the leaking dam and found a collapse could cause "catastrophic failure".

The crews worked through the night after the 180,000 megalitre irrigation dam on the corner of Pin Tail Drive and South Beach Road started leaking into nearby properties.

SES south-west regional officer Ian Carlton said a dam collapse could have caused "serious damage and been a threat to life".

Concerns were first raised about 6pm on Friday when water appeared to come up through the ground on two nearby properties. By 1.30am on Saturday, emergency crews had woken more than 100 residents across 41 homes and asked them to leave immediately.

Ten CFA trunks were involved in pumping water out of the dam to reduce the pressure on the compromised wall. More than 100 emergency services workers were on site, including dam engineers trying to decipher the scope of the damage.

SES south-west regional officer Ian Carlton said an initial trickle of water could have turned into a torrent.

"Initially it was only a trickle of water, but the dam where it was all coming from was the concern. Engineers did assessments on the consequences of a catastrophic failure, and it would have affected three blocks of houses," he said.

"Some larger pumps have arrived [Saturday] morning. They’re going to be drawing water and trying to get it down to 80 megalitres. We'll be lowering the level down to an acceptable level to try to minimise the risk.

"It’s not an everyday occurrence, and when we’ve seen footage from overseas of dam failures, it’s not something to be taken lightly."

Mr Carlton said affected residents were prepared for the early-morning evacuation after hours of evening work by SES and CFA crews.

Residents will not be able to return to their homes until at least Sunday.

SES media spokeswoman Chloe Jeffers said with the weaknesses in the dam wall, emergency services were in a race against time to avoid "potential catastrophic failure".

"Our new flood preparedness plan tells people to 'bag it, lock it, lift it and leave'. That was the advice we were giving residents last night," she said.

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