Tag: Bastion Point

About 1,000 people — and their pets — evacuated from Mallacoota on Navy ships

Mallacoota 3892

Some of the residents and holidaymakers who have been stranded in the East Gippsland town of Mallacoota since it was cut off by an out-of-control bushfire have started leaving the area by sea.

Key points:

  • About 1,000 people will leave Mallacoota for the Mornington Peninsula
  • Roads in and out of the town are expected to be blocked for weeks
  • For the latest information, visit the Vic Emergency website

About 4,000 people, including some 3,000 tourists, have been stranded in the town since they were forced to shelter on the foreshore as the fire approached on New Year’s Eve.

About 1,000 people were ferried to the naval vessels HMAS Choules and MV Sycamore.

Those who wanted to leave on the ships registered through a formal process with Victoria Police and the Australian Defence Force (ADF), which are coordinating the evacuation.


Federal MP Darren Chester said conditions were “smoky but fine” as the evacuations got underway. (Twitter: Darren Chester)

Video: Conditions were so smoky yesterday when HMAS Choules arrived, the ship could not be seen from shore.

(ABC News)

Melbourne resident Shaun O’Connor, one of the stranded tourists leaving with the Navy, said he wanted to thank the locals and firefighters who defended lives as the fire hit.

“Couldn’t thank them [the CFA] enough. They saved our lives,” he said.


Shaun O’Connor said he would not be alive if it were not for the firefighters who defended the town. (ABC News)

He left the Bastion Point jetty with his rabbit Thumper, who would be joining him on the journey home.

“I reckon he survived the fire, so I reckon he’ll survive the sea,” he said.

Residents were told during a community meeting last night that only school-age children could be evacuated via boat because evacuees would be required to use ropes to get on board.

Follow our live blog for updates on bushfires and the evacuations.

Video: Evacuees were bussed from Mallacoota's centre to Bastion Point to board the Navy vessel.

(ABC News)


Some evacuees took an amphibious cargo vehicle called a LARC to get to HMAS Choules. (Supplied: Department of Defence)

Melbourne woman Sally, who had been holidaying in the coastal town when fires struck, said that meant her entire family decided to stay behind.

“We’ve got young children and we can get airlifted out — that’s our option because our children are young, but all our possessions are here,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne.


Millie the dog was evacuated from Mallacoota with owner George Mills. (Instagram: George Mills)


People and pets wait to board the landing craft at Mallacoota for transfer to the ships. (Supplied: Department of Defence)

“For us to leave and then come back isn’t an easy task.”

Mr Andrews has declared a state of disaster for Victoria, which gives emergency authorities extraordinary powers to respond to the fires.

The federal MP for Gippsland, Darren Chester, said those who had asked to be removed by sea would leave on Friday, bound for Western Port on the Mornington Peninsula.

“It’s a mass relocation of a nature which is completely unprecedented in Gippsland’s history,” he said.

The process of loading the vessels took several hours, and the journey from Mallacoota to Hastings, on Western Port, is expected to take a further 17 hours.


About 1,000 people were ferried to HMAS Choules and MV Sycamore. (Supplied: Department of Defence)


Sailor Afton Mitchell pats dogs evacuated with their owners from Mallacoota. (Supplied: Department of Defence)

Mr Andrews told ABC Radio Melbourne the evacuees would be taken from Hastings to Melbourne and regional centres.

Chris Symes, who grew up and started raising a family in Mallacoota before moving to New South Wales, said he would stay behind while his 17-year-old and 11-year-old sons left with the Navy.

Mr Symes said he decided to stay in Mallacoota to help his parents, who still live in the town, with the recovery.


Once aboard HMAS Choules, evacuees were served lunch. (Supplied: Department of Defence)

He said his father’s house survived “by the skin of its teeth” and he wanted to ensure it stayed safe in worsening conditions forecast for the weekend.

“Everyone has been really calm and I think that’s what you usually see in these sorts of situations, everyone pulls together to help each other out and stop worrying about the small stuff,” he said.

Vulnerable and injured flown out

Mr Chester said 25 people were evacuated out of the town on a Spartan aircraft on Thursday night.

“We’ve had people getting out of Mallacoota airlifted out who are vulnerable, super sick, or ill or injured with the Black Hawk helicopters,” he said.


Chelsea Kent was evacuated from Mallacoota to Sale by military plane with her partner Corey Nicholson and daughters Sadie, 3, and baby Milah. (Supplied: Chelsea Kent)

Chelsea Kent and her young family were flown to Sale by military plane overnight and said she “could not thank the Australian Air Force enough”.

Roads in and out of the isolated town, in Victoria’s far east, have been blocked by the still-burning blaze and could take weeks to clear.


Many people in remote communities remain trapped. (Supplied: Department of Defence)

Heavy smoke has hung in the air since the fires first turned the sky bright red as the blaze closed in on Tuesday.

Relief efforts in Mallacoota and around the state — where many people in remote communities remain trapped — have been hampered by continuing fires and smoke.

Video: Defence personnel spent much of Thursday delivering water and relief supplies to the town.

(ABC News)


HMAS Choules arrived yesterday and helicopters and boats helped take supplies to shore. (Supplied: Sean Rainey)

Kevin Glee, a tourism operator in the area, said “probably the worst thing” now the immediate fire threat had passed was the smoke.

“You can’t see too far. The smoke — we’ve been breathing it in for a while. I don’t think it’s real good for anyone,” he told ABC News Breakfast.

Mr Chester said the Navy had also sent technicians to the town, which had been without power all week, to restore communications towers.

More bushfire coverage:

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Nervous wait as naval ship prepares for mass evacuation of Mallacoota

Mallacoota 3892

Residents and tourists stranded in the bushfire-ravaged town of Mallacoota will have to wait until Friday morning to evacuate on board a naval ship that is docked off shore.

Key points:

  • HMAS Choules will evacuate about 800 people on Friday morning
  • It could be weeks before those who do not get evacuated can leave by road
  • For the latest information, visit the Vic Emergency website

About 800 people are expected to board the HMAS Choules when the evacuations begin at 7:00am.

Premier Daniel Andrews said it may be necessary for the ship to make multiple journeys.

“Some people will want to go, some people will be happy to stay,” he said.

There were hopes some of the most vulnerable people in Mallacoota could have been flown out this afternoon, but smoky conditions hindered those efforts.


About 4,000 people have been trapped in Mallacoota. (Supplied: Sean Rainey)

About 3,000 tourists and 1,000 locals are stuck in Mallacoota as roads remain cut off after a fire tore through on New Year’s Eve.

Elsewhere in East Gippsland, 17 people are still missing.

Follow our live blog for updates on bushfires and the evacuations.


Smaller naval boats have arrived at the jetty at Bastion Point. (ABC News: Elias Clure)

Trapped tourists can’t get home

Samantha Corbett was visiting Mallacoota from Kyabram, in northern Victoria, with her extended family.

They rented two homes on the same street and had been looking forward to spending the week together.

Now, she just wants to get out before conditions worsen again on Saturday.

“At this stage we can’t leave Mallacoota. Obviously if they’re evacuating people we will put ourselves in for the register. But at this stage there is no way out,” she said.

“If there is a possibility of getting out, then yep, I’m on the first boat that I can get myself and my family onto.

“But if not, my plan is to be on the waterfront.”

She said the family was doing their best to be self-sufficient and not place additional stress on a town where so many people had lost everything.

“We brought a lot of stuff with us for the holiday house, so we’re quite lucky about that,” she said.

“We brought a lot of water. We’re trying to be really smart about what we’re using and how we’re using it.”


Homes and structures in Mallacoota have been reduced to twisted metal and ash. (Facebook: Jason Selmes)

Evacuation plan based on ADF process

The evacuation is being coordinated by Victoria Police and the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

The Premier said people who wanted to leave were being encouraged to register through a formal process.

“People will be encouraged to register through a formal process, a well-established process that the ADF has used in many different parts of the world assisting with evacuating large numbers of people,” Mr Andrews said.

Brigadier Doug Laidlaw said the current plan was to begin transferring people to HMAS Choules around 7:00am.

“An hour or so later hopefully the vessel will be in a position to sail,” he said.

“The intent is to take those people to a Victorian port. As we understand more about the weather a decision will be made about whether that’s Welshpool or Westernport and there are different considerations that apply to each.”

HMAS Choules anchored about 1.5 kilometres off the Mallacoota shoreline this morning, loaded with supplies.

A second navy vessel, the MV Sycamore, has also arrived in the area to help.

Naval fast-recovery crafts have landed at a jetty at Bastion Point, from where emergency authorities will begin figuring out how to get people from hard-to-access parts of the town onto the boat.


HMAS Choules left Sydney on Wednesday, headed for Mallacoota. (AAP: Benjamin Ricketts/Royal Australian Navy)

‘I wouldn’t mind some fresh air’

Deputy Emergency Management Commissioner Chris Stephenson said a number of people wanted to stay behind to get their cars and caravans out of town.

With roads blocked and fires still raging, he warned it “could be two or three weeks” before that was able to happen.

Francesca Winterson, who broadcasts from Mallacoota’s local community radio station, said people were “starting to get incredibly anxious”.

“Because they have been isolated for so long, but they have to accept that right at the moment there’s absolutely nothing we can do,” she said.


Tony Priest said he was waiting to be able to go home. (ABC News)

Musician Tony Priest was visiting Mallacoota with his band when the fire approached.

“In the distant sky, seeing the red, sort of, glow approaching and then the ember attack. It was just terrifying,” he said.

Now, like many people who were visiting Mallacoota and became stranded by the fire, he said he just wanted to go home.

“I wouldn’t mind some fresh air,” he said.

“It would be nice to go back home.”

Locals prepare to stay in ‘caring and resilient community’

The fire danger for most of Victoria is expected to worsen on Friday and Saturday, as hot and windy conditions return.

But resident Gayle Sands said she would stay in the town she called home, even if the option of evacuating was made available.

Her husband Peter decided to stay and defend their house as the fire closed in on Monday night and Tuesday morning.

As I waited on the Mallacoota foreshore, I felt helpless
Gus Goswell recounts the moment he and his family prepared to enter the water as a fire roared towards them like “a freight train” on New Year’s Eve.

“I am sitting at our house thanks to my husband’s efforts at saving it,” she said.

She said she could not sleep as the fire approached the town on Monday.

“We could see the glow of the fire getting closer and closer and in the end I decided I would evacuate to the hall,” she said.

“I needed to relieve the tension of my three children who didn’t think I should stay, knowing that their father is much stronger.”

Her son-in-law, Nicholas, was defending his house in Mallacoota on his own.

“He and Peter had two-way radio communication, Nicholas was on his own and he saved so many places and he put out so many fires with a bucket of water,” she said.

“I feel very positive that the network of the community is happening quickly.

“I am fairly confident we are a loving, caring and resilient community and we get through this.”

More bushfire coverage:

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

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