A distressed relative of the missing woman was seen being led away from the beach in the late afternoon after waiting for hours for news of their loved one.
Altona pier, in Melbourne’s west, is a drawcard for locals in the warmer months. It is a popular spot for fishing and swimming and is occasionally used by recreational boats.
The search and rescue operation comes just days after Victoria marked its deadliest period for drownings on record. Forty-two people have drowned since July last year, including seven in the past month. The death toll is well above the state’s five-year average.
Earlier this month, a 58-year-old man died near Angelsea after his boat overturned. The same a day, a man was pulled from the water near Barwon Heads but died at the scene.
At the beginning of summer, Life Saving Victoria warned of a “perfect storm” for drownings across the state after a year in which Victorians – particularly in Melbourne – were not able to travel far from their homes to swim, let alone access a public swimming pool.
Life Saving Victoria’s Kane Treloar said Victorian beaches had been incredibly busy this year and it was difficult to convince people to swim between the flags.
“People frequently find themselves in trouble 500 metres away from a flagged area,” he said.
The Murray River remains Australia’s deadliest river. On Tuesday, the body of a 35-year-old man was found by police divers near the Victorian town of Cobram.