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Four people die in mass drownings at unpatrolled beach on Australia’s Phillip Island

Representative: People run into the water at an Australian beach (Getty Images)
Representative: People run into the water at an Australian beach (Getty Images)

Four people died in Australia after drowning at an unpatrolled beach in one of the worst such tragedies in almost two decades.

Emergency services responded to the Victoria’s Philip beach on Wednesday, after receiving a report of four people struggling in the Newhaven water.

“Life Saving Victoria was called to assist four people in trouble in the waters off Forrest Caves on Phillip Island, only a couple of kilometres from our patrolled lifeguard site,” Kane Treloar, the Life Saving Victoria state agency commander, was quoted as saying by the Australian Associated Press.

“Upon arriving at the scene, our lifeguards found that off-duty lifeguards had pulled three of those people from the water and one of our rescue boats pulled that last person from the water.”

The incident is the worst such tragedy in Victorian waters in almost 20 years, Life Saving Victoria said.

All three people – a 20-year-old woman, a 23-year-old man, and a 43-year-old woman – were unconscious and unresponsive and despite the CPR and passed away, said Mr Treloar.

A fourth person, 20-year-old woman, died in Alfred hospital, after being flown there in a critical condition. All four victims were of Indian origin.

"The waters down here are known for rips and treacherous conditions and unfortunately they were swept up in a rip,” said Victoria Police Eastern Region assistant commissioner Karen Nyholm.

"These circumstances and the number of deaths involved is horrific. It’s horrific for the people who witnessed it, and I’m sure it’s something they’ll unfortunately have to recall for the rest of their lives,” she was quoted as saying by 9News.com.au.

Victorian premier Jacinta Allen also issued a statement over the tragedy. "I want to send my condolences to the loved ones who have been affected by this terrible tragedy," she said.

"To be out enjoying a day with family and friends in a beautiful part of our state to end in this tragedy must be devastating for those involved.

"It’s a really tragic and terrible way to be reminded of the dangers that can come with swimming."

Condoling the deaths, the Indian High Commission in Canberra said the consulate general in Melbourne was in touch with the victim’s friends.

"Heartbreaking tragedy in Australia: 4 Indians lost their lives in a drowning incident at Phillip Island, Victoria. Deepest condolences to families of the victims. Consulate General of India, Melbourne, team is in touch with friends of the deceased for all necessary assistance," said the embassy.