Victoria rejected Russian waterbombers

Victoria rejected Russian waterbombers

21 October 2009

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Australia — Victorian Premier John Brumby has confirmed the state turned down the offer of two giant Russian water-bombing jets during February’s deadly bushfires.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Attorney-General says Russia offered to send two water-bombing aircraft to douse the flames on February 10, three days after Black Saturday.

But Victoria’s Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) turned down the offer 11 days later for operational reasons.

The giant Ilyushin-76 jets can drop five times as much water as the Elvis Skycrane.

Mr Brumby says the DSE assessed the offer, but decided the planes would not be available in time to make a difference.

“DSE made the assessment that for reasons of operational requirements, that is suitability and time delays, that it was not appropriate,” he said.

Mr Brumby says the aircraft were not suitable for Victorian conditions and it would have taken too long to get approval from aviation authorities.

“By the time the planes would have got here it would have been about another week after that and then they would have had to go through a series of CASA tests and procedural processes there to be fit for purpose.”

“So you’d be looking again at weeks and weeks and weeks after that,” he said.

The Opposition Emergency Services spokesman, Andrew McIntosh says offers of overseas aircraft must be re-considered before the next fire season.

“It would seem that it’s suitable in Europe and it’s suitable in the United States, with similar climatic fire problems,” he said.

“Reality is it should be looked at and explored as an option here in Victoria.”

“If it’s not looked at, if it is not explored, if John Brumby just dismisses it, then I think he’s leaving Victoria dangerously unprepared,” he said.

John Cann of the Marysville Land Development group told ABC Radio’s Jon Faine the offer should have been accepted.

“I think it would have the answer to a prayer for a lot of people up there in February,” he said.

“One can only assume if they were available there would have been a faster response.”

The February bushfires claimed the lives of 173 people and destroyed 3,000 homes.

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