Australia — THE Harrietville bushfire has cost the economy of Victoria’s Alpine region an estimated $40 million.
Lightning sparked the bushfire on January 21 – and it has razed the profits of small businesses.
Harrietville cottage operator John Atkins said: “For a town like us it was quite devastating, we lost probably close to 100 per cent of our normal income.”
He said the fire also dealt a blow to Bright’s tourist economy.
But Alpine Shire Mayor Peter Roper was more optimistic, saying that while the disaster had tested the community, businesses and residents remained resilient.
“Most people just pull the belt in a bit tighter and just get on with it, and their spirit is absolutely amazing,” Mr Roper said.
Bushfire Response Minister Peter Ryan has vowed to have the Great Alpine Rd reopened before the lucrative Labour Day long weekend, after the fire closed a large section between Harrietville and Mt Hotham.
But Mr Roper said it was a “big ask” to open the highway after rain caused major landslides, blocking a 5km section in both directions.
“Not having the area open before Easter time, that would be an absolute disaster,” Mr Roper said.
VicRoads said the debris from the rock fall could not be cleared until Monday.
North East Water operation chief John Day said Harrietville residents were being urged to restrict their water consumption after fire debris contaminated the town’s water supply.
“It literally went from drinking water to thick mud,” he said.