Death toll from freak Australian thunderstorm event rises to eight

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An eighth person has died following a freak thunderstorm asthma event that hit Victoria in November.

Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) confirmed that Ranjith Peiris, 57, was the eight person to die as a result of the storm which occurred when a sudden cool change caused pollen to burst into tiny particles which were then spread across the state by a thunderstorm.

The tiny pollen particles were easily inhaled via the nose and mouth and caused breathing problems for asthmatics and people with pollen allergies across the state.

More than 8,500 people visited emergency wards of hospitals across Victoria while the storm was raging as emergency services were inundated by seven times as many calls as they would have usually received.

“This was a tragic and unforeseen event and hospitals are continuing to treat seven people for a variety of respiratory and other related conditions,” the DHHS said on Tuesday.

“Ambulance paramedics, emergency services staff and dedicated doctors, nurses and pharmacy staff saved the lives of hundreds of Victorians who received treatment as a result of their symptoms.”
Peiris was put on life support eight days ago after he lost consciousness during the storm.

His son, Roshan, tried to revive his father while the family waited more than an hour for an ambulance.

“He couldn’t take a breath so I was breathing air into him as forcefully as I could, started compressions,” Roshan Peiris told Fairfax Media.

“He’d come back but then he’d go unresponsive, back to being unconscious, blue.

“If we knew how long the ambulance was going to take we could have done something. We could have taken him (to hospital) ourselves.”
Amongst the other victims were Omar Moujalled, 18, who was just days away from completing school and 20-year-old law student Hope Carnevali.

One patient remains in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) while seven others are being treated for sickness related to the outbreak.
The Victorian government has announced a comprehensive review into emergency services’ response times will take place.

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