‘Day of savagery’ prompts questions about bushfire warnings

‘Day of savagery’ prompts questions about bushfire warnings

9 February 2009

published by www.abc.net.au

Australia — Victoria’s Emergency Services Commissioner, Bruce Esplin, says authorities will examine whether they could have handled the bushfire threat differently.

There have been questions about why so many people have been killed. The number of people killed stands at 108, but police say the toll is expected to rise.

But Mr Esplin has told ABC2 News Breakfast the disaster exceeded authorities’ worst fears.

“It’s beyond Black Friday, Ash Wednesday, those other notorious days in Victoria’s fire history,” he said.

“Everything that was done that could be done, I think, to warn the community about the savagery of the weather and the need to be prepared and make those planning decisions very early.

“But it was a shocking day. It was a Saturday of such savagery that it will go down in history forever, unfortunately.”

He says reviews will look at the type of messages given to people caught out.

“There will be lessons that we can take out and those lessons I think will be how we place ourselves into that sort of bushfire risk area within our communities,” he said.

“And there will be lessons that will be relevant to people all over Australia. As the fire conditions become more extreme, we’ll have to do things differently.”

The Federal Government also says there should be an examination of the advice given to people about whether to defend their properties and when to evacuate.

The Attorney General, Robert McClelland, says the Government will consider changing the warning system.

“The natural inclination I think of people is to protect their assets, to protect their animals,” he said.

“In this case where there’s rural properties obviously that’s a factor let alone their pets.

“Just what should be sound practice because clearly on the face of it, many of those casualties occured by people fleeing fleeing too late.”

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