Tag: Lakes Entrance
A Victorian husband and wife and their four small children have been left with nothing except for a wedding dress after a bushfire destroyed their entire farm on the cusp of the New Year.
Matt and Katie Zagami’s house was one of 11 lost in Wairewa, a community of 87 that lies north-east of Lakes Entrance in East Gippsland.
The Zagamis did not take much with them when they made the decision to flee their home on December 30 — they left, nervous but optimistic, with just a couple of backpacks and the boots on their feet.
“We left here last Monday just after lunch thinking we’d come back to our house the next day and everything would be alright,” Mr Zagami said.
“But we found out earlier that morning that we’d lost our house and, more devastating, we’d lost everything.
“The house, sheds, farm … it burnt through everything.
“We looked at the house and went ‘we’ll see you tomorrow’ … we didn’t expect it to be this bad.”
The only thing not destroyed was Mrs Zagami’s wedding dress, which somehow survived in an old wooden bungalow in the backyard.
“It’s just bloody devastating … to have everything taken away in one hit,” Mr Zagami said.
“The farm is one thing, but we lost everything in the house — everything.
“All the kids’ stuff, every little keepsake we thought had, we’ve lost all that stuff.”
‘A sense of failure’
The couple initially planned to stay and defend the home, but the thought of their kids being orphaned compelled them to leave.
Nonetheless, the decision plagued them.
“We don’t fight much,” Mrs Zagami said.
“But there was a lot of silent treatment that night.
“There’s a whole sense of failure by not staying.
“You feel like a coward not hanging around.”
After seeing the destruction wrought by the flames, however, Mr Zagami said the doubts they had have been well and truly laid to rest.
“Life is just so much more valuable,” he said.
“You get real hugs when you go through this — people hug you really tightly, and you can feel it.
“It’s unexplainable the feeling you get when someone hugs you now after going through this.
“You feel very glad to be here.”
‘The show will roll on’
As well as sheds and machinery, the Zagamis lost most of their corn production blocks and green beans in the fire.
Such extensive losses, including their machinery and the infrastructure needed to plant and irrigate, mean it will take a long time before production can begin again in earnest.
Nonetheless, Mr Zagami is determined to get some vegetables back in the ground.
“A mate has offered to loan us his planter, so that’s a ripper,” he said.
“We’ll get into that so we will be planting again next week hopefully irrigating this week and the show will roll on.
“[We] hope that we can actually get the job done and get some stuff picked before the end of the season, but I think it’s going to be very difficult to pull it together in time for next season.
“We’ve had three years of really tough conditions and it’s taken us probably three years to get back to a position where we were geared to put some money in the bank and actually go a little bit better than what we have been.”
Rebuilding from the ruins
Mr Zagami said he and Katie will need to sit down to assess what happens next.
“I think we need to get settled again with our kids — we’ve got four little kids,” he said.
“We need to get them in a place where they are happy and comfortable so they can go and start the school year again and then try and rebuild.
“Every day we get reminders — every hour we get a reminder of what we lost and what we haven’t got anymore, and we have found it really hard to be here and look at it.”
He said there had been a constant stream of visitors and phone calls from friends and neighbours offering to help.
“[You get calls from] blokes you haven’t talked to for a long time, and they know it’s hard for you to talk,” he said.
“I think the people who rang me in those first few days didn’t get much talking — just a lot of tears.
“But they’ve all been helpful emotionally and with the farm, on both accounts.”
Military aircraft and naval ships will be deployed to support fire crews and stage evacuations in bushfire-ravaged areas of Victoria, the Federal Government says.
- Bushfires are still causing destruction in parts of Gippsland and near the NSW-Victoria border
- Lightning has been starting more fires in the Alps
- For the latest information, visit the Vic Emergency website
Seven emergency warnings remain in place for bushfires that have destroyed dozens of properties in the state’s east and north-east.
Four people remain unaccounted for.
Authorities have confirmed 43 properties — including homes and a primary school — have been destroyed by bushfire in Gippsland, where more than 400,000 hectares have been burned.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds have agreed to deploy a fleet of aircraft and ships at the request of the Victorian Government.
As part of the deal, the Australian Defence Force will send Black Hawks, Chinooks, fixed-wing aircraft and Navy vessels for firefighting support and evacuations.
Earlier, Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said 19 buildings had been destroyed in the farming district of Sarsfield, and 24 in the neighbouring town of Buchan.
An unknown number of properties have also been destroyed by fire in the Corryong area, near the NSW-Victoria border.
Situation remains dangerous
Aerial footage revealed Clifton Creek Primary School, in East Gippsland, was among the properties destroyed.
“The danger is not over,” Mr Crisp said, describing the situation as “dynamic and dangerous”.
“There’s a lot of fire edge.”
In the holiday town of Mallacoota, thousands of people huddled on the beach this morning as flames approached the area — but CFA chief officer Steve Warrington said the main bushfire front had since passed the town.
“I understand there was a public cheer down at the jetty when that was announced,” he said.
But he said fires continued to burn in the area, and firefighters were still extinguishing houses on the outskirts of the town.
Samantha Corbett was on holiday in Mallacoota with her family and joined the thousands of people who sought shelter at the boat ramp as the bushfire hit the town.
She said “many, many spot fires” had started in and around the town on Tuesday afternoon and there was “a lot of smoke”.
“We have watched houses burn today. It’s been gut wrenching,” she said.
“The CFA are working tirelessly. They roll in, fill up then roll straight back out. Where we can we are clapping and cheering them on. I can’t thank the emergency services here enough.”
Thousands of people have been left without power in East Gippsland, which AusNet said may not be restored for days.
‘There’s a chance we’ve lost everything’
Thousands of holidaymakers and residents left East Gippsland for safer locations after authorities issued multiple warnings earlier this week.
Clifton Creek resident Shannon Hutchings’s family of six left town for Lakes Entrance with their pets on Monday.
She believes the fire has since burned through their property twice.
“There’s a chance we’ve lost everything,” she said.
“We can’t actually get on to the property [because] there’s massive trees down in the way, so even if the fire’s not in the area we can’t actually get through.
“We are really concerned that what it didn’t take the first time, if there’s anything left, it’ll grab the second go around.”
As the prospect of homelessness looms, Ms Hutchings and her husband are among fire-affected residents working out where to stay and how to take care of their families.
“We’re finding alternative places for our kids to go,” she said.
“We have one [son] going to a nursing home at Paynesville because he has physical special needs — we can’t provide for that here and we have none of his equipment,” she said.
“We have two going to stay with some beautiful friends in Melbourne and we’ve yet to figure out whether we’ll keep the fourth one with us.”
Buildings razed on outskirts of Corryong
Fires are surrounding the town of Corryong, east of Albury-Wodonga in Victoria’s north-east, where the CFA’s Mr Warrington said people were experiencing a “high degree of anxiety”.
He said there were numerous property losses on the outskirts of the town.
“It is isolated and we can get limited trucks in and out,” Mr Warrington said.
He said the good news was that a cool change had passed through the town.
“So still a high degree of anxiety … and a lot of firefighting activity occurring again with numerous property losses, particularly on the outskirts of the town in Corryong.”
An evacuation centre was set up at Corryong College.
Shalee Gherbaz said she had spoken to her brother in Corryong, who described the town as “an absolute mess”.
“Fires are everywhere but the town was standing strong,” Ms Gherbaz said.
In an update at 6:50pm, Luke Heagerty of the State Control Centre said people in the area should shelter indoors.
Lightning sparks new blazes in the Alps
Watch and act warnings have been issued after a band of lightning strikes started about a dozen new fires in Victoria’s Alpine region.
Mr Warrington said those fires, pushing into areas near Mount Howitt, Mount Buller, and Jamieson, were also a cause for concern.
An updated emergency warning was issued at 3:50pm for a bushfire in the Upper Snowy Cluster near Corryong and Colac Colac.
Lightning strikes are still hitting Victoria’s High Country and there are fears they could spark new fires.
Army, American experts called in to help
Commissioner Crisp said authorities were considering using helicopters to fly in food and other supplies to people cut off by the fires and related road closures.
“We still have communities that are isolated,” he said.
“We’re doing everything we can to get supplies down there to ensure that we can look after those people.”
Fire services in the United States and Canada had been asked to provide “specialist aviation resources” to help firefighting efforts, he said.
Army personnel will join officers from the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) to conduct impact assessments in affected areas.