A tornado and wild storms that ripped through Victoria's north have been described as "truly startling" by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Ms Gillard on Saturday announced federal disaster assistance had been activated for areas hit by Thursday's category F3 tornado and its associated storms, which caused devastation in Murray River towns Bundalong, Yarrawonga, Mulwala, Rutherglen, Koonoomoo and Cobra.
"This has been a truly startling event," Ms Gillard told reporters in northern NSW on Saturday.
"People would have seen that 20 sustained injuries; there have been homes damaged, destroyed, trashed. Vehicles have been overturned.
"Our communities in Victoria ... are facing a very difficult day and our thoughts are with them and some practical assistance is available."
Ms Gillard said the disaster assistance would be available to those in the Alpine, Benalla, Greater Shepparton, Indigo, Moira and Strathbogie local government areas.