Thousands flee Dreamworld after fire alert

Thousands flee Dreamworld after fire alert

09 November 2013

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Australia — MORE than 7000 people fled Australia’s largest theme park on Saturday after a grassfire started nearby.

The fire, sending a huge plume of smoke towards the 85-hectare Dreamworld on the Gold Coast from nearby Coomera, prompted an evacuation.

Visitors described how the smoke started drifting into the park, also home to the Big Brother house, prompting rides to be closed one-by-one.

Sam Gilchrist was at the theme park with daughters Alannah, 14, Megan, 9, and Holly, 6, on the last day of a Gold Coast holiday when the smoke started to drift in.

She said Dreamworld staff started shutting down rides one at a time as the smoke started to thicken.

While some people moved to rides that were still open, the Melbourne family left just before the park was evacuated because one of the children started getting upset by the smoke.

“The kids were on a ride and I could see a mist of smoke and I could smell it,” she told AAP.

“It started getting really black and blanketing the whole area.

“There was a little bit of ash falling, I think asthmatics would have had a bit of a difficult time.”

She said she didn’t know whether people would be compensated for having to leave.

The park will open as usual on Sunday.

A Dreamworld spokeswoman said the evacuation of guests and zoo animals had been a precaution.

“We evacuated for the safety of guests, staff and the animals,” she said.

She said park visitors whose details staff had managed to obtain before they left the park would be contacted regarding possible compensation.

A Queensland Department of Community Safety spokesperson said the fire covered four hectares on Saturday afternoon, having broken out near Foxwell Road about 1.30pm (AEST).

The spokesperson said there was no immediate threat to homes but advised people to keep their doors and windows closed.

Firefighters had contained the blaze by 7pm (AEST) but the Department of Community Safety said crews would remain on scene “for some time”, backburning and monitoring the fire.

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