Australia — A torn Australian flag that survived the Black Saturday bushfires in the devastated town of Marysville 99 days ago signifies a new chapter in the town’s resurrection.
On Sunday, that flag was raised for the first time since February 7 at the opening of a new, if temporary, village attended by hundreds of Marysville residents and supporters.
The opening of the village, on a former camping ground, also coincided with the release of a report detailing the recovery work that has been carried out in the first 100 days since the devastating firestorm.
The village will provide accommodation for up to 40 families and 40 single people in the months to come as the community continues to rebuild.
Almost the entire town was razed on Black Saturday.
Resident surrounded the flag and sung the national anthem as the flag was raised alongside an Aboriginal and a Victorian flag.
Premier John Brumby said Marysville was a “remarkable example of human spirit”.
“Of people working together, of coming together, looking to the future in what has been the most extraordinarily difficult and challenging circumstances,” Mr Brumby said.
The premier added it was fitting the village opened on the day the report – by the Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority – was released, but he dismissed criticism it was taking too long to rebuild Marysville.
“It is important to get a commercial heart back in Marysville, it is such a beautiful part of the state that its natural beauty and surrounds will attract people back,” Mr Brumby said, adding $51 million had been set aside to help businesses get back on their feet.
“I’m keen to see some of the larger businesses re-established to draw people into the area.”
Authority chairwoman Christine Nixon said there was still a long way to go but the 100-day report showed significant process.
With 3,000 damaged or destroyed properties to clear, so far just a shade over 1,000 have been cleaned up, the report reveals.
“I think you have to be open and honest in this process,” Ms Nixon said.
“There’s 3,000 sites to clean up and we’ve done what we have in two-and-a-quarter months, that’s actually world’s best practice, but in some people’s cases it’s not fast enough.”
There had also been a number of complaints about the lengthy form-filling process for bushfire victims to receive funds and other help.
“It’s a big disaster and you’ve got thousands of people who have been touched by this. I think it’s at least 70,000 people in our community,” Ms Nixon added.
She said the 100-day report at least showed the community what had been done right and wrong in the first stages of the recovery process.
“When you’re dealing with such a massive clean-up you are going to make some mistakes along the way.”
The report revealed over 10,000 insurance claims had been made, with the cost of those estimated to be $1.2 billion.
Authority representatives have also attended 29 community meetings and met with over 4400 people.
Ms Nixon will report to the government every three months, with the authority expected to continue its work for at least two years.