More towns under threat from bushfires

More towns under threat from bushfires

published by

11 Feb 2009

A number of Victorian communities remain on alert this morning as bushfires continue to burn in hills in the state’s north-east.

The death toll this morning stands unchanged at 181. At least 78 people have been injured. Twenty-three fires are still burning across the state and more than 1,000 homes have been lost. The Red Cross bushfire appeal has raised more than $31 million so far.

Dozens of people remain unaccounted for and more victims are expected to be found in the remains of buildings and cars.

The communities of Rubicon, Thornton-Taggerty Road, Bulls Lane and Cathedral Lane to the east of Little River could be affected by the Yea-Murrindindi fire today.

Other places including Acheron, Connellys Creek, Crystal Creek, Scrubby Creek, Native Dog Creek and Molesworth are also on alert.

CFA spokesman Mark Glover says the winds will gradually push the smoke and flames towards those areas today.

“There’s still basically a southerly flow, 20 to 25 kilometres per hour, so that should be OK to allow our fire fighters to get some tracks around those northern parts of the fire,” he said.

“But nonetheless it will also promote some fire activity because it’s still fairly dry.”

“There is a threat alert, not an immediate threat, but a threat alert anyway.”

East of Melbourne, threat alerts are also in place for the Black Range and Blue Range and the Yarck and Caveat townships, where fires have been spotting.

Overnight firefighters conducted back-burning around the Maroondah Yarra complex burning east of Melbourne and worked on containment lines around the northern line of the Delburn fire complex and on blazes still burning around Healesville, Beechworth, Kilmore and Churchill.

But the CFA says it will take several days to establish containment lines around the Kinglake complex, north of Melbourne.

A number of fires are also burning in the Bunyip State forest.

Much of the fire threat has eased across the rest of the state but residents are being urged to be vigilant.

Three thousand firefighters, including volunteers from around the country, remain on the firefronts today as emergency crews spend a fourth day trying to control the state’s fire crisis.

Meanwhile, more firefighters from New South Wales will head to Victoria today to relieve the 300 firefighters the state has already sent to help.

A Red Cross spokesman says it is essential people displaced by the bushfires register with the organisation so people can get in contact.

More than 7,000 people have given the Red Cross their details since the firestorm hit the state.

Michael Raper from the Red Cross says volunteers are ready to sign people up.

“The more the better and then over 10,000 inquiries we’ve had, people ringing in from all over Australia and all over the world indeed, trying to find out if their friends, relatives, families had registered, and if we had any information about those,” he said.

“Often we were able to say yep, they’re OK, here’s the phone number.”


Tent cities

Hundreds of families remain in tent cities on the rim of the fire disaster areas.

Many have no idea where they will go next or when they may be able to return to their former communities.

Mary Keneally lived in fire ravaged Marysville.

She told told ABC News Breakfast that pressure will be kept on authorities to help them re-build their communities.

“We’ve been promised by the Prime Minister yesterday that he will rebuild Marysville, by God, we’ll hold him to that,” she said.

Firefighters from Western Australia are the latest to make their way to Victoria to bolster the efforts to control the bushfires.

They will help with the Bunyip Ridge fire in Gippsland.

The blaze has already burnt more than 25,000 hectares and destroyed homes at Labertouche, Jindivick West and Drouin West.

A threat to Gembrook was downgraded yesterday, but residents in the area, and at Neerim Junction, and Nayook, were asked to remain on alert.

Incident controller Chris Hardman says the interstate crews will provide some much-needed relief.

“We’ve got 35 firefighters from Tasmania joining us in our firefight,” he said.

“I am aware that firefighters are coming from Western Australia and South Australia and it’s one of the great things – Victoria’s suffered a tragic and dramatic fire event and the rest of Australia are rallying around, just trying to provide us with some support, which is fantastic.”

Volunteers from interstate and and other parts of Victoria are travelling to the fire affected areas to help victims of the weekend bushfires.

Lilli Stuber, a musician from the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, has told ABC News Breakfast that fire refugees at the camp ground in Yea were grateful for a diversion from their troubles last night:

“Just bringing hope and bit of joy into people’s lives, you know there’s a lot of despair around and we just felt really strongly to come down and be here for people in need,” she said.


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