Marysville reopens as Victoria bushfire toll likely to stay at 210

Marysville reopens as Victoria bushfire toll likely to stay at 210

20 March 2009

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Australia — Police have not found any more bodies in Marysville, which is being reopened to residents almost six weeks after bushfires claimed 45 lives in the Victorian alpine town.

The town is the last to be reopened following the devastating February 7 bushfires that swept parts of the state.

The death toll currently stands at 210, and with Marysville reopened, without the discovery of further remains, that’s where it may settle.

An update on the official toll will be made soon, Assistant Commissioner Keiran Walshe said.

“We haven’t found any more remains and we’re comfortable that all human remains have been found and recovered,” Mr Walshe said.

Police today confirmed residents will be allowed back into the devastated town, northeast of Melbourne, providing they can prove their identities. But road blocks around the tourist town will remain in place. 

Meanwhile, the people of Flowerdale returned to their blackened town on Friday wanting answers.

In their first meeting with bushfires royal commissioner Bernard Teague, they want to know, among other things, why they had no warning that their town was about to be engulfed; why they are cut off from mobile phone communication; and why the undergrowth that fuelled the fires was allowed to grow to such dangerous levels.

Most of their town went up in flames on Black Saturday, leaving the pub and the primary school among a handful of public buildings still standing.

Not surprisingly, the pub was chosen for their meeting with the royal commissioners who will investigate what happened to them and other communities on February 7 and what should be done about making sure it doesn’t happen again.

What they planned to tell the commission in their private meetings is similar to what the people of Myrtleford had to say on Wednesday when they met retired Supreme Court judge Mr Teague.

Mr Teague is heading the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission which will begin formal hearings into the blazes that killed at least 210 people and destroyed town-after-town in the countryside north of Melbourne.

The meeting at Flowerdale, like the one at Myrtleford earlier this week – and like the 10 that will follow – is designed to give the local community the opportunity to let the commission know what they believe should be its priorities.

Flowerdale resident Chris Lloyd had no doubt what should be on the top of the list.

“The total lack of any warning of any kind,” Mr Lloyd said.

“Why were we left in the dark.”

Mr Lloyd said he and his partner had monitored the Country Fire Authority (CFA) website all afternoon on Black Saturday as they had been advised to do, but Flowerdale was never mentioned.

They also did as they were advised and listened to ABC radio for official warnings.

“They said that if your town wasn’t mentioned, it meant you were OK,” he said.

“We weren’t mentioned, but we weren’t OK.”

The first warning Mr Lloyd had of the impending disaster was when he heard the fires coming over the hills.

“We got out at 6.30 that night,” he said.

“Our house was gone by 6.45.”

The community consultative meetings continue in Kinglake on Monday.

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