Tag: Mr Priest

Relief for bushfire-ravaged Mallacoota as boat arrives with water, supplies

Mallacoota 3892

Some much-needed relief in the form of water and other emergency supplies has arrived by boat in the East Gippsland town of Mallacoota and a half-dozen patients were evacuated for treatment a day after destructive bushfires swept through the coastal community.

Key points:

  • About 1.6 tonnes of supplies came in by boat for the 4,000 stranded residents
  • Jann Gilbert said the loss of all of her possessions in the fire felt “surreal”
  • For the latest information, visit the Vic Emergency website

On Tuesday, about 4,000 residents sheltered on the Mallacoota foreshore under red skies as a bushfire closed in on them.

The blaze, which is still burning and threatening homes and lives near Cann River, reduced buildings along several streets to rubble, but firefighters managed to save the town’s centre.

On Wednesday afternoon, a boat arrived carrying 1.6 tonnes of water and diesel to help fuel generators in the town, which is without power.

Video: Footage has this morning revealed the extent of destruction in Mallacoota.

(ABC News)

Those in the town said dozens of homes had been destroyed as emergency crews tried to clear the road to the airport.

Jann Gilbert’s possessions were “totally incinerated” in the fire but, at the end of the day, she and her animals are safe and for that she is grateful.

“There is just simply nothing left, nothing at all, except ash,” she said.

“I think it will probably hit me sometime later. It’s a bit surreal at the moment. It hasn’t quite kicked in.”

Video: Residents filmed as the bushfire swept towards Mallacoota on New Year's Eve.

(ABC News)

She said they were confident the firefighters would contain the blaze away from the wharf and the community hall.

“But once a fire like that is upon you we would have had no choice but to get everyone into the lake. That’s the only option we had,” she said.


Ms Gilbert said she was still in shock about the loss of her possessions in the fire. (ABC News: Elias Clure)

She blames the ferocity of the fire on climate change.

Helicopters fly out to pick up vulnerable bushfire victims

Two Black Hawk helicopters arrived in Bairnsdale to provide humanitarian support for communities cut off by the fires.

They are based at RAAF East Sale.

The first task was to transport fresh firefighters into Mallacoota and to take vulnerable patients with respiratory and other health issues out of the fire zone.

Six patients were flown to the RAAF base around 8:00pm and were met by waiting ambulances.

The patients included two young boys and several elderly people seen being taken to an ambulance on stretchers.


Two Black Hawk helicopters have arrived at Bairnsdale to provide support for communities cut off by the fires. (ABC News: Kyle Harley)

Angela Rintoul was on holiday in the town and was relieved to find her parents’ holiday house still standing, because she said the conditions at the Red Cross relief centre were difficult.

“It was very challenging with hundreds of people [there] trying to clean my baby’s milk bottle in the toilet hand basin,” she told ABC News.

More bushfire coverage:

“You start to get worried about infection and other kinds of outbreaks that could happen.”

Ms Rintoul said some families were forced to sleep on the oval next door to the community centre and a friend’s child was sick.

“She said one of her boys was vomiting by the time they got into the shelter at 5:30am on Tuesday. Just from the smoke I guess, possibly anxiety,” she said.

Video: People are crying, coming to terms with the loss: A tourist in Mallacoota describes the aftermath.

(ABC News)

See how Wednesday, January 1 unfolded in our live blog

‘End of days’

Tony Priest has been travelling from Melbourne to Mallacoota for the last four years to play with his band at the local pub on New Year’s Eve.

He said he had never seen more “apocalyptic” conditions in his life.

Mr Priest and the five other band members defended the pub as embers rained down on the building.

“It was terrifying. Like the end of days,” he said.

He said when the ember attack hit about an hour later, the band members kept fighting to save the pub as large chunks of glowing bark “showered” down on them.

“We used a hose, we had Corona buckets filled with water,” Mr Priest said.


Mallacoota’s CBD was saved, but a number of homes were destroyed by the blaze. (ABC News)

When the ember attack was over they started wetting towels and blocking the edges of windows to stop the smoke coming into their hotel room in the pub.

“It was hard to breathe, we thought it was the end,” he said.

East Gippsland incident controller Ben Rankin said the breadth of the fires and the impact on communities had exceeded his expectations.

“I mentioned it was similar to Black Saturday and I think it has turned out to be that sort of impact for Gippsland,” he said.

The state’s Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said at least 10 homes had been destroyed in Mallacoota.

Business owner Mark Peters returned from the foreshore to find he had lost his home and bed and breakfast in the fires, and told RN Breakfast the town looked like a war zone.

“There’s nothing, not a thing. It’s all black, smoky, all the trees are burnt out, no leaves left on them. Everywhere that used to have koalas and bell birds and that sort of thing, everything’s gone,” he said.


Residents returned home from the foreshore on Tuesday afternoon to find properties razed. (Twitter: Luke McCrone)

The town is still without power, and a “boil water” advice is in place for the area, as authorities urged residents the town’s reserves were low.

The town, usually a tourist destination in the summer, is in Victoria’s far east and accessible only by the Princes Highway — which remains cut off.

“It’s already a remote location, it’s always been — that’s the gem of Mallacoota,” said Gippsland MP Darren Chester.

Video: About 4,000 people camped out along Mallacoota's foreshore as the fire approached on Tuesday.

(ABC News)

“It’s difficult to get to, you get there and you escape life and you have a wonderful holiday.

“Things have turned pretty bad in the last 48 hours.”

Similar scenes were seen on Tuesday further west at Sarsfield and Clifton Creek, where a separate bushfire tore through on Monday.

Mark Trellegas told the ABC the sky was black in the early hours of Tuesday morning, which then turned “blood red” as the fire closed in.

He said the thousands of people huddled down by the water were calm and quiet and people offered food and drinks to their neighbours.

He said nearly everyone knew someone who had lost a home in the town, and he suspected it would take “many years” to rebuild the town.


Flames continued to burn in Mallacoota on Wednesday morning. (Supplied: Claire George)

Resident Don Ashby told ABC Gippsland he had lost his house and estimated about 50 homes had been destroyed.

“It’s just stuff. It’s an opportunity to build a new home and fill it full of new junk,” he told ABC Gippsland.

“Mallacoota community are a bunch of triers and a bunch of people who get on with it. We all pull together when we need to, and that’s pretty clearly what’s happening here.”


This utility pole was reduced to ashes. (Facebook: Claire George)

Although the fire passed through the town on Tuesday afternoon, the area remains cut off and under an emergency warning for the blaze.

“The immediate worry has passed, but … we’re under this threat until the next time we get some really heavy rain,” Mr Ashby said.


Residents have been gathering in an evacuation centres for town meetings. (Supplied)

Premier Daniel Andrews said defence helicopters would be used to provide a “shift change” for firefighters.

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

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