Bodies found in WA bushfire disaster

Bodies found in WA bushfire disaster

10 January 2016

published by

Australia–  A third person feared missing in a bushfire south of Perth, has been found alive after the deaths of two elderly men.

Work continues to formally identify the men, who are suspected of being killed in the blaze that tore through Yarloop and destroyed 128 homes.

Meanwhile, the fire threatening the towns of Harvey and Cookernup has been downgraded to a “watch and act” warning but it remains an emergency east of Waroona, Hamel and Yarloop and surrounding areas.

Following the discovery of the remains of the men in separate houses yesterday, West Australian Police now say everyone reported as missing from the fire zone has been accounted for. This follows the tragic discovery of human remains in Yarloop, the town worst affected by the blaze. Specialist officers from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services yesterday re-entered the town of Yarloop and found what they believe to be the remains of two men in separate houses. They believe one of the men is aged 73 and the other 77.

“As you are aware, WA Police is continuing investigations into the discovery of human remains at two residences in Yarloop. Those discoveries were made as part of inquiries into the whereabouts of two men who were unaccounted for,” a police spokeswoman said.

“It is possible that further reports (of missing people) could be made to WA Police as time goes on, which is why it is important for all residents from fire impacted areas to register their details with the Australian Red Cross,” she said.

Bodies found in WA bushfire disaster

West Australian police say they appear to have found the bodies of two missing men in the burned-out town of Yarloop, where a continuing bushfire has destroyed at least 121 buildings.

Earlier residents in the town of Harvey, 155 kilometres south of Perth, were told to evacuate as the bushfire in the state’s southwest raged nearby.

The WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services warned fire conditions in the areas of east of Waroona, Hamel, Cookernup, Yarloop, Harvey and surrounding areas in the shires of Harvey and Waroona had escalated.

Earlier report: Fireball tears through town

The first discovery of human remains was made inside a house that was destroyed by the bushfire that ripped through the old mill town of Yarloop on Thursday night. The fire cut off power before reaching the town.

No formal identification has been made but, given the circumstances, police believe the remains to be those of a 77-year-old man who was unaccounted for after the fire had passed Yarloop.

Entry to the house was made by specialist personnel from the WA DFES, which resulted in the discovery of remains being made, a police media spokesman told journalists in a statement.

Shortly after, specialist personnel gained entry to another residence in Yarloop which resulted in the discovery of what are believed to be the remains of a 73-year-old man who was also unaccounted for after the fire had passed Yarloop.

The families of both men have been advised of the developments. Further forensic work would have to be undertaken once it was deemed safe to do so, and reports would be prepared for the WA Coroner, the police spokesman said.

Inquiries are ongoing in relation to up to three other people who have not been accounted for.

Earlier yesterday relatives of a 73-year-old, Malcolm Taylor, told NewsCorp that they feared the worst after seeing photos of his burned house and ute in the media.

The man had stayed to defend his home.

(Police are asking anyone who lives in the Yarloop area, but who left prior to the fire, to register with the Australian Red Cross. Register with Register. Find. Reunite via or call the State Enquiry Centre Line on 1800 015 337 or speak to Australian Red Cross staff in person at an evacuation centre.)

Humidity and slower winds earlier helped firefighters on their fourth day battling the massive blaze in the southwest but the threat to the dairy and fruit-growing town of Harvey was again dire because of a breakout.

An emergency warning was also in place for areas east of Waroona, Hamel, Cookernup, Yarloop and nearby.

The blaze was reported on January 4 and has burned about 3000 hectares.

The cause is a reignition of a previous fire caused by lightning.

Four firefighters have been injured battling the blaze, while more than 60 NSW firefighters arrived on Saturday to help fatigued crews.

Several roads and recreation sites remain closed, with dairy farmers forced to dump thousands of litres of milk.

Western Power says thousands of properties remain without power, but burnt trees and debris in danger of collapsing must be cleared before the network can be rebuilt.

About 835 people have registered at two evacuation centres and children there have welcomed distractions including horses and players from the Wildcats basketball team.

WA Premier Colin Barnett cut short his leave to be briefed on the devastation and met people sheltering in evacuation centres.

He said disaster assistance would be provided to those affected by the fires, through the jointly funded Commonwealth-State Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.

Mr Barnett told reporters at the Pinjarra evacuation centre that the scale of fire damage, particularly in Yarloop, was significant, but he also praised the efforts of fire crews and the community spirit.

The historic town would be rebuilt but the Premier said it was likely to become a smaller community.

Mr Barnett met residents at the Pinjarra evacuation centre on Saturday and said the state government would help rebuild public facilities at Yarloop, although he was unsure how many of the 545 people would return.

“I’m sure there will be a Yarloop, but probably not a Yarloop of its previous size,” he said.

Department of Fire and Emergency Services commissioner Wayne Gregson said it had been a challenging bushfire and they were “not out of the woods yet”.

“I don’t like to get optimistic in these circumstances, we’ll just see what time brings,” he said.

“We’re seeing conditions that we’ve not seen before on this type of fire, particularly when it went through Yarloop.”

In addition to the lost homes, several other structures were also razed in Yarloop, including part of the school and the 110-year-old Yarloop Workshops and Steam Museum.

Almost 100 people were evacuated from Yarloop by air and road but 16 refused to budge, including Ron Sackville, who told AAP on Friday that he heard gas bottles and petrol drums explode as properties around him burned.

“Once it hit the town there was no stopping it because the houses were just exploding,” he said.

Authorities yesterday updated the number of homes and other buildings destroyed in Yarloop from 95 to 121.

Assistance for victims includes:

* Personal hardship and distress assistance for families and individuals, including assistance with repairs to damaged homes and the replacement of essential household contents.

* Personal and financial counselling.

* Financial assistance for local and state government authorities for counter-disaster operations and to restore damaged public infrastructure.

* Interest rate subsidies for small businesses and primary producers affected by fires.

* Freight subsidies for primary producers to assist with the costs of transporting livestock, fodder or water for livestock and machinery and equipment.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien