Bushfire-devastated Kinglake reopens

       Bushfire-devastated Kinglake reopens

17 March 2009

published by news.smh.com.au

Australia — The reopening of the fire-devastated town of Kinglake five weeks after Black Saturday has prompted mixed reactions from locals.

Police on Tuesday removed the last three roadblocks stopping the general public from entering Kinglake, which suffered at least 45 deaths and widespread property losses during the February 7 bushfires.

As police began to clear away witches hats that blocked vehicles, some residents made their feelings to the media known – angrily beeping car horns and sticking up their fingers.

In town, the owner of the Flying Tarts Bakery, Kylie McErlain, said she thought the roadblocks should have remained for longer.

“I understand why they have done it, they want businesses to survive here.

“But, for the community, I think it is way too soon.”

She said many in the town were still coming to terms with the tragedy and may not welcome an intrusion.

General store owner Cham Chao, however, said the roadblocks had harmed his business and they should have been removed long ago.

“For businesses, it (allowing in the general public) can only help.

“With the lack of residents now, any traffic is better than nothing.

“We need the tourists to come in and revitalise the area.”

Police Inspector Tess Walsh urged people visiting the area to show respect to locals.

“We have talked to the locals very generally about strategies to help them react to things they might feel a little bit compromised by,” Insp Walsh said.

The roadblocks were lifted at 2pm (AEDT) on Tuesday following a relaxing of restrictions imposed by the state coroner to preserve ruined buildings until they had been thoroughly searched for human remains.

Only one town – Marysville – remains closed to the public as forensic experts continue to scour destroyed sites around the tourist town.

At least 210 people were killed in the bushfires, which also destroyed more than 2,000 homes and buildings.

In lifting their roadblocks, Victoria Police warned so-called “disaster tourists” and rubberneckers to respect the rights and privacy of residents still coming to terms with the disaster.

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