A Kiwi father-of-four has died in Melbourne eight days after being hospitalised for "thunderstorm asthma".

Sam Lau, 49, was admitted to Austin Hospital after a storm struck on November 21. He died surrounded by his family on November 29.

His family believe he was the ninth victim of thunderstorm asthma - a phenomenon in which asthma attacks are triggered by environmental conditions during local thunderstorms.

Lau, his wife Elsa Voong and their two youngest children, Jet, 10, and Julia, 3, moved to Australia from New Zealand about a year ago, Fairfax reported.


Lau's eldest daughter, Sheila, 25, has set up a Givealittle page to get her dad back home to New Zealand and pay for funeral costs.

"My father was the sole breadwinner at the time of his death and my mother is a stay-at-home wife with two young dependants."

She described Lau as "a genuine family man who always put his family first".

"Having come from a poverty-stricken area of China, he came to New Zealand in search of a better life to support his family back home."

Lau met Voong while living in New Zealand. The pair married and had four children - Sheila, and her brother Martin, now 26, and then later Jet and Julia.

"It's very sudden and unexpected, my mum is an incredibly strong woman. She's a strong woman, but she's absolutely devastated, we all are. She's doing the best that she can," she told Fairfax.

The family had asked the New Zealand Embassy in Australia for assistance, but the Embassy was unable to help financially, Sheila said.

Emergency services responded to hundreds of respiratory complaints after a wild thunderstorm struck Melbourne on November 21.


At the height of the phenomenon paramedics dealt with an unprecedented 1900 emergency calls in five hours, with hospitals eventually treating more than 8500 people for asthma.

What is thunderstorm asthma?

• Pollen grains absorb moisture during a thunderstorm and then burst into hundreds of tiny allergenic fragments which are small enough to penetrate deep into the airways.

• During a severe asthma attack muscles around the airways contract and block the flow of air.

• Inflammation and mucus also blocks the airways from within.