Tag: South Australia
An overseas trip during a bushfire crisis has created a headache for another Australian political leader, with SA Premier Steven Marshall apologising for “any confusion” created by his unannounced week-long trade mission to Singapore and Japan.
- Mr Marshall said it was important to promote South Australia to overseas tourists
- He conceded the announcement of his upcoming trip could have been handled better
- The Premier left for a week-long trade mission days after replacing David Ridgway as Tourism Minister
Mr Marshall left the state on Monday — two days after he announced he would take over as Tourism Minister from David Ridgway.
The Premier defended that decision on the grounds the portfolio would keep Mr Ridgway overseas too often to help Kangaroo Island’s bushfire-ravaged tourism industry, but Labor has accused the Government of hypocrisy.
“It perhaps wasn’t a good look for him to be leaving only hours after he told South Australians that he should be Tourism Minister, and that he needed to be here on the ground,” Shadow Treasurer Stephen Mullighan said.
Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman said it was important that Mr Marshall took “every opportunity” to ensure that “we sell to the world that we are open for business”.
But Mr Marshall, who is currently in Singapore, today conceded the announcement of the trip could have been handled better.
“I think we should have made it definitely a lot clearer to the people of South Australia exactly what the trip was about, what it was intending to achieve,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide.
“I think we probably should have called a press conference, but it was a busy morning that morning with one of three extraordinary Cabinet meetings … and if I’ve got it wrong, I apologise.
“I apologise if people have had any confusion, but this is a really important trip for South Australia.”
Correcting ‘misconceptions’ key for tourism, Premier says
Mr Marshall said the trip focussed on critical areas like tourism, attracting international students and investment, as well as correcting “some of the misconceptions” about Australia’s bushfires.
“While I’ve even been here in Singapore, people were saying to me ‘I hear the whole of Australia is burning down at the moment’,” he said.
“We’ve got to be on the front foot in terms of tourism and making sure that we can keep our tourism numbers up and our travellers up and continue to promote Kangaroo Island, the Adelaide Hills and of course, the whole of South Australia.
“It’s been planned for a long period of time … and while I’m here, it’s already proven to be extraordinarily beneficial.”
The Government previously said Mr Marshall made four trips to Kangaroo Island in two weeks, and would be heading there again upon his return.
It said the overseas trip had been announced before the fire crisis, in the Government Gazette in December — a claim rejected by Labor.
“What was published in the Gazette was that Vickie Chapman would be acting premier during the Premier’s absence — it didn’t say where he would be absent to,” Mr Mullighan said.
The Opposition also said Mr Marshall had not learnt anything from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who was widely condemned for holidaying while Australia’s bushfires intensified before Christmas.
The Kangaroo Island fires have now burned through more than 200,000 hectares of land, killed 43,000 livestock animals, an estimated 30,000 koalas and affected over 200 producers, according to Livestock SA.
This week authorities said 65 homes were destroyed by the island’s fires which also claimed the lives of respected pilot Dick Lang and his son Clayton, an experienced surgeon.
Animal welfare agencies now hold grave concerns for the ongoing survival of koalas, kangaroos and pademelons still being found alive as starvation becomes a threat.
Stay across our bushfire coverage:
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- Government pledges $50m for fire-affected wildlife as koalas may become endangered
- First all-Indigenous NSW firefighting crews protecting sacred sites, remote communities
- Australia fires photos show startling transformation before and after destruction
- We crunched the numbers on bushfires and arson — the results might surprise you
- Analysis: As Australia burns, Scott Morrison is rattling off an alibi
- Wildlife experts say over a billion animals now dead in NSW bushfires
The only sealed road linking Western Australia and South Australia reopened this morning after being closed for 12 days because of bushfires.
The closure of the Eyre Highway left hundreds of Nullarbor travellers and truck drivers trapped on both sides of the border.
Authorities reopened the 1,600-kilometre highway at 7:00am local time after fire conditions eased.
Frustrated and tired travellers were trapped on either side of the Nullarbor Plain while a bushfire burning near Norseman in Western Australia kept the highway closed to all traffic.
WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) Superintendent Andy Duckworth said motorists should be patient as they travel through.
“We appreciate everyone is frustrated and tired so we’ve taken these extraordinary measures over the last few days to keep people safe,” he said.
“The last thing we want now is for people to perhaps be involved in a road traffic crash.”
He said people should drive with care, adhere to the speed limits, be patient if they needed to overtake and be sensible on their journey.
Authorities were staggering the release of traffic to avoid congestion and had flown in extra police officers to patrol the highway.
But Goldfields-Esperance Sergeant Dave Christ said he encouraged people to postpone their travel.
“The advice is to wait at least a day or a couple of days to just give the traffic a chance to clear itself and make your trip a lot smoother,” he said.
The decision to reopen both the Eyre Highway and Coolgardie-Esperance Highway was made after fire conditions eased in the area.
Supt Duckworth said the fires were at advice level but still uncontained.
“There’s still work to be done and obviously as the weather changes so can the situation,” he said.
“We’ll be monitoring and working hard over the next few days, potentially weeks, to get these fires controlled and extinguished.”
Travellers stranded for days
The ABC spoke to visitors from Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia who were caught up in the extended closures.
While some were frustrated, most praised emergency services and volunteers in the towns in which they were stranded.
Glenda Allen from Warrnambool was in stuck in Esperance for six days and said she was “absolutely ecstatic” to be heading home.
Adelaide truck driver Glenn Freestone said the closures had “crippled” the transport industry.
“Out of the past month, I’ve been stuck for 22 days,” he said.
“I can’t wait to get back on the road, and hopefully if everyone plays nice we will get there safely.”
An ‘unprecedented’ situation
Coles and Woolworths said the closure had impacted the supply of some fresh produce in stores this week.
The companies used other transport options like rail to bring in products and minimise the impact.
WA’s peak road transport body said while fresh fruit and vegetables would return to shelves in the next few days, it would take much longer for farmers to recover.
Western Roads Federation chief executive Cam Dumesny said closing the vital route for nearly two weeks was unprecedented and would have significant consequences for the state’s economy.
“We have a lot of our produce growers here in WA who were sending their seasonal produce across to the east,” he said.
“Because of this closure, they’ve probably missed a fair chunk of their profits for the season.
“It’ll take some time to stabilise.”
Mr Dumesny applauded DFES, police, volunteers and the communities who supported the stranded motorists.
But he said the state would “need to take a deep breath once this is over and have a hard look at how we’ve managed it”.
“I think there’s some hard lessons we need to learn … how we look after people out there, sustain them and keep them updated with what’s going on.”
The AFL has become the latest sporting organisation to announce plans to support bushfire relief, including $2.5 million in donations and a one-off State of Origin match at Docklands next month.
AFL chief Gillon McLachlan made the announcement of the Origin clash between a Victorian and an Allies side, adding the league, clubs and players were joining together to provide a $1 million donation to the Australian Red Cross relief fund.
The State of Origin match will be played as a double-header with the Collingwood-Melbourne AFLW match — previously scheduled for February 29 — which will be moved from Victoria Park to Docklands.
The Victorian side will be guided by Richmond premiership coach Damien Hardwick, while the All-Stars will be coached by the Sydney Swans’ John Longmire.
All AFL clubs will be asked to make at least three players available for the match.
The last time State of Origin football was played involving AFL players was in 1999, when Victoria played South Australia at the MCG.
Nine years later, a one-off game — the AFL Hall of Fame tribute match — was played at the MCG, when a Victorian line-up beat the Dream Team (a composite side from other states and territories) to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Australian rules football.
The AFL would also set up a $1.5 million community relief fund to help rebuild football clubs damaged in fires, as well as helping football communities dealing with the aftermath of fires.
AFL’s bushfires response
- $1 million donation to Australian Red Cross Relief Fund
- $1.5 million AFL fund to rebuild, repair football clubs in fire-affected areas
- One-off State of Origin match, Victoria v Allies on February 28 at Docklands
- Match to be played as double-header with Collingwood v Melbourne AFLW as bushfire fundraisers
- AFLW clubs to support bushfire donation collection points at matches in the 2020 season
- $2.5m donation split between the AFL ($1.35m), clubs ($900,000) and players ($250,000)
“Our clubs, players and officials have been unanimous in providing a response that could not only raise money but also recognise the local communities impacted,” McLachlan said.
“And most importantly pay tribute to those thousands of volunteers and emergency services personnel who have worked tirelessly to protect us as a community.
“We know that those [fire-affected] communities are suffering now but they are also going to need our support as they start to rebuild.
“Sport builds bonds within communities and we want people to know they have the support of the entire football industry and that we will be there to help them rebuild facilities and programs and ensure people continue to come together.”
Australian sport kicks in for bushfire relief
The AFL announcement joins a string of pledges from players, codes and sports to provide contributions to bushfire relief.
The NRL has announced round one of the 2020 season will be a “bushfire relief round” to raise funds for fire-hit communities.
Australia’s Boxing Day Test team shirts were auctioned off to raise funds, bowlers donated $1,000 per wicket during the Sydney Test against New Zealand, and two one-day internationals against the Black Caps in March will be used for fundraising.
In tennis, Nick Kyrgios pledged $200 for every ace he served in the Australian summer of tennis which was the catalyst for a Tennis Australia program, Aces 4 Bushfire Relief, involving local and international players.
Tennis Australia will also host a concert featuring a number of performers including Jessica Mauboy, and a Rally for Relief exhibition event headlined by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both ahead of the Australian Open.
Various Big Bash League cricketers have pledged money for each six hit in the competition, while Australian great Shane Warne is auctioning his baggy green cap —as of Thursday morning, the highest bid is $520,500.
A group of Australian NBA basketballers with the NBA Players Association have banded together to donate US $750,000 ($1.09 million), while NBL superstar and projected NBA number one draft pick Lamelo Ball has pledged one month’s worth of his salary with the Illawarra Hawks.
Major bushfire donors Donor/sAmountAndrew Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation$70mPaul Ramsay Foundation$30mCrown/The Packers$5mNAB$5mColes$4mLeonardo DiCaprio via Earth Alliance $3.4mAFL$2.5mBHP$2mWestpac$1.5mWoolworths$1.5mAustralian NBA stars$1m+Commonwealth Bank$1mANZ$1mRio Tinto$1mOrica$1mPratt Foundation$1mJohn and Pauline Gandel$1mElton John$1mChris Hemsworth$1mKylie Jenner$1mHains family via Portland House Foundation$1mThe Perich Group $1mAuction for Shane Warne’s baggy green cap (purchased by the Commonwealth Bank)$1mMetallica$750kLewis Hamilton$730k approxKylie and Dannii Minogue$500kJustin Hemmes$500kNicole Kidman and Keith Urban$500kPink$500kBette Midler$500k
*Table does not include fundraisers, such as Celeste Barber’s efforts to raise tens of millions, or pledges conditional on future events, such as Nick Krygios’ commitment to donate $200 for every ace he hits.
For nearly 40 years, Susan Laundy has spent her summers living in terror after surviving two major bushfires that hit her Adelaide Hills property.
- Trauma from Ash Wednesday bushfires only appeared years after the disaster
- Children can be especially affected by what they go through
- An expert says tabs need to be kept on victims for a long time after the fire
In 1980, an intense fire saw her running barefoot up a dirt road, trying to escape the flames while herding her horse and six donkeys.
“One donkey doubled back on me — she was so pregnant she could hardly move and I lost her,” Ms Laundy said.
“I just kept running and running on foot with the horse.
“You’re running on adrenaline and it’s only when it all stops that it overwhelms you and you realise what you’ve been through.”
Just three years later, the Ash Wednesday fires came through, bringing the trauma of yet another bushfire.
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While she did not know that she had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), after nearly four decades she sought professional help.
“I just suffered through years and years of hell every summer and I’d sit here and shake because I didn’t know what was wrong with me and no-one else knew, so I just suffered alone,” she said.
Now, after always staying to defend her property, this summer she has decided to leave on high-risk days, bringing her cats, guinea pig and rabbit with her.
“Listen to the experts — they scared the living daylights out of me back in November on that first really catastrophic day,” she said.
“I was terrified and I just thought, if they’re telling me it’s not safe, they’re serious.”
PTSD takes time to show
The 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires killed 75 people and burned more than 400,000 hectares across Victoria and South Australia.
Trauma expert Professor Sandy McFarlane studied the longer-term impact of the fires on children, firefighters and the community.
“People in the immediate aftermath are thinking of their survival — they function, they get on with it; the issue is about what you do in the longer term,” he said.
He found that decades later, one-third of the children involved in the fires continued to have enduring fears over what they went through.
He is concerned that the infrequent nature of major bushfires meant lessons were often forgotten, but hopes past experience could inform how communities recover after the fires subside this summer.
“There’s an enormous concern and outpouring of public sympathy in the weeks and months that follow, but that’s not when the most important needs of these communities arise,” he said.
“After the Ash Wednesday bushfires, a case register was set up and most people were actually presenting more than two years after the disaster … that’s the critical issue, that you plan for the longer term.”
He said GPs played a pivotal role in assessing the mental health of people who had been exposed to fire.
“One of the lessons that we learned is that people trust their GPs, they are the people who are already part of that community and they will go and seek their assistance, rather than some health service or counselling service that’s been brought in from the outside,” he said.
Reassure children of their safety
Professor McFarlane’s longitudinal study of bushfire survivors included 800 children across Victoria and South Australia.
His research found that children, like adults, were more likely to show symptoms of bushfire trauma in the years after their exposure.
He also found that in the longer-term, children who had been in the Ash Wednesday fires were less likely to access tertiary education and were more likely to go into relationships early.
“It’s almost as though they came to have a slightly constricted view of what the world could offer them because of the fear and the danger they had faced in their childhoods,” he said.
His advice to parents of young children was to limit their re-exposure to trauma through supervised access to media.
He also said children needed to be reassured of their safety, and if possible needed to remain with their parents.
“It’s important to keep children close to parents,” he said.
“People can sometimes think we should get them out of the environment because they will be seeing the destruction and they might be safer away from us.
“Interestingly, it seems children are safer when they are with their parents because if they’re not with them, they start to worry about their parents’ welfare.”
‘You carry it with you whether you like it or not’
Andrew Auld was 17 when the Ash Wednesday fires swept through his town of Kalangadoo, in the south-east of South Australia.
While attempting to build a fire break on the family property, the wind changed direction and he was caught in his tractor in the fire front.
He said the heat was so intense, it melted the rubber seals on the tractor door.
“The noise of the fire was like a freight train, the tractor was actually rocking with the wind … one minute it was pitch black and you couldn’t see anything, the next minute you couldn’t see beyond the glass with a red inferno,” Mr Auld said.
While he could not see where he was going, he managed to drive through the fire by using the graded edge on the side of the road as a guide, only to rejoin his family to battle the blaze threatening their house throughout the night.
Mr Auld said he was one of the lucky ones, with nine people in the town, including four children, dying in the fire.
While 37 years have since passed, the heat of Australian summer brings memories flooding back.
“You don’t forget what happened,” he said.
“The eucalypt smoke is something for whatever reason that sticks in my mind and just the extremes of the weather.
“Every time one of these occurs, and I’m sure all those people who are in the fires now will be the same, it’s one of those things that you get to carry with you whether you like it or not.”
Australia is in the midst of a bushfire crisis that will affect local communities for years, if not permanently, due to a national crisis of underinsurance.
Already more than 1,500 homes have been destroyed — with months still to go in the bushfire season.
Compare this to 2009, when Victoria’s “Black Saturday” fires claimed more than 2,000 homes in February, or 1983, when the “Ash Wednesday” fires destroyed about 2,400 homes in Victoria and South Australia, also in February.
The 2020 fire season could end up surpassing these tragedies, despite the lessons learnt and improvements in preparedness.
One lesson not really learnt, though, is that home insurance is rarely sufficient to enable recovery. The evidence is many people losing their homes will find themselves unable to rebuild, due to lack of insurance.
We know this from interviews with those affected by the October 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires (in which almost 200 homes were destroyed). Despite past disasters, more than 65 per cent of households affected were underinsured.
Research published by the Victorian government in 2017, meanwhile, estimated just 46 per cent of Victorian households have enough insurance to recover from a disaster, with 28 per cent underinsured and 26 per cent having no insurance.
The consequences aren’t just personal. They potentially harm local communities permanently, as those unable to rebuild move away.
Communities lose the vital knowledge and social networks that make them resilient to disaster.
Miscalculating rebuilding costs
All too often the disaster of having your home and possessions razed by fire is followed by the disaster of realising by how much you are underinsured.
As researchers into the impact of fires, we are interested why people find themselves underinsured. Our research, which includes interviewing those who have lost their homes, shows it is complicated, and not necessarily due to negligence.
For example, a woman who lost her home in Kinglake, northeast of Melbourne, in the 2009 fires, told us how her insurance calculations turned out to bear no resemblance to the actual cost of rebuilding.
“You think okay, this is what I paid for the property,” she said. “I think we had about $550,000 on the house, and the contents was maybe $120,000.”
It was on these estimates that she and her partner took out insurance. She told us:
You think sure, yeah, I can rebuild my life with that much money. But nowhere near. Not even close. We wound up with a $700,000 mortgage at the end of rebuilding.
An extra mortgage
A common issue is that people insure based on their home’s market value. But rebuilding is often more expensive.
For one thing there’s the need to comply with new building codes, which have been improved to ensure buildings take into account their potential exposure to bushfire.
This is likely to increase costs by 20 per cent or more, but is rarely made clear to insurance customers.
Construction costs also often spike following disasters, due to extra demand for building services and materials.
A further contributing factor is that banks can claim insurance payments to pay off mortgages, meaning the only way to rebuild is by taking out another mortgage.
“People who owned houses, any money that was owing, everything was taken back to the bank before they could do anything else,” said a former shop owner from Whittlesea, (about 30km west of Kinglake and also severely hit by the 2009 fires).
This meant, once banks were paid, people had nothing left to restart.
She told us:
People came into the shop and cried on my shoulder, and I cried with them. I helped them all I could there. That’s probably why we lost the business, because how can you ask people to pay when they’ve got nothing?
Undermining social cohesion
In rural areas there is often a shortage of rental properties. Insurance companies generally only cover rent for 12 months, which is not enough time to rebuild.
For families forced to relocate, moving back can feel disruptive to their recovery.
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.
Underinsurance significantly increases the chances those who lose their homes will move away and never return — hampering social recovery and resilience. Residents that cannot afford to rebuild will sell their property, with “tree changers” the most likely buyers.
Communities not only lose residents with local knowledge and important skills but also social cohesion.
Research in both Australia and the US suggested this can leave those communities less prepared for future disasters.
This is because a sense of community is vital to individuals’ willingness and ability to prepare for and act in a threat situation. A confidence that others will weigh in to help in turn increases people’s confidence and ability to prepare and act.
In Whittlesea, for example, residents reported a change in their sense of community cohesion after the Black Saturday fires.
“The newer people coming in,” one interviewee told us, “aren’t invested like the older people are in the community.”
Australia is one of the few wealthy countries that heavily relies on insurance markets for recovery from disasters.
But the evidence suggests this is an increasingly fraught strategy, particularly when rural communities also have to cope with the reality of more intense and frequent extreme weather events.
If communities are to recover from bushfires, the nation cannot put its trust in individual insurance policies. What’s required is national policy reform to ensure effective disaster preparedness and recovery for all.
Chloe Lucas is a postdoctoral research fellow in geography and spatial sciences at the University of Tasmania. Christine Eriksen is a senior lecturer in geography and sustainable communities at the University of Wollongong. David Bowman is a professor of pyrogeography and fire science at the University of Tasmania. This article originally appeared on The Conversation.
Three thousand Australian Defence Force reservists will be deployed to help with the bushfire recovery, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced.
- The Navy’s largest amphibious ship, HMAS Adelaide, will sail from Sydney this afternoon to the south coast
- Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said the compulsory call-out of the 3,000 defence reservists is a first in the nation’s history
- Mr Morrison also confirmed his scheduled visits to India and Japan later this month have been postponed
Mr Morrison said the Federal Government would also invest a further $20 million to lease four additional firefighting aircraft.
The Prime Minister also announced Chinook helicopters from Townsville and other military aircraft would assist, as well as the opening of defence force bases from Adelaide to Brisbane for emergency short-term accommodation.
The Navy’s largest amphibious ship, HMAS Adelaide, will sail from Sydney this afternoon to sit off the coast should it be required to help with evacuations.
“They will sail this afternoon, they will be located offshore from the fire-affected areas from tomorrow afternoon,” Mr Morrison said.
“The Adelaide is fully equipped for disaster relief and humanitarian aid, is able to operate helicopters, 400 crew including medical staff, as well as 300 tonnes [of emergency relief supplies] which have been loaded up in recent days.”
Mr Morrison said the deployment in South Australia would focus on Kangaroo Island, after two people died in a bushfire there.
It brings the nationwide bushfire death toll to 23 since September.
‘Political advertising’ released hours after announcement
Hours after the announcement, Mr Morrison’s office released a social media video outlining the arrangements.
The post, released on Twitter and Facebook, is set to upbeat music overlaid with video of the disaster relief efforts.
“We’re calling out up to 3,000 Defence Force Reservists to help in fire-affected areas,” it reads.
“We’ve also deployed three Australian Navy ships…that’s on top of the $26 million already committed this year.”
@toddsampsonOZ tweet: Advertising! There is something not right about running political advertising during a devastating National Crisis. It’s like being ‘sold to’ at a funeral. PR Crisis 101: say less and do more.(Btw, the bouncy elevator music is too juxtaposing and really annoying.) #bushfires
The video was slammed as “political advertising” on Twitter, with former ABC broadcaster Barrie Cassidy labelling it “absolutely obscene”.
“They are advertising their responses to the fires – promoting themselves – at the height of the crisis,” he said.
Elly Baxter commented: “Really? A party political ad about disaster relief. There is something seriously wrong with everyone involved with this.”
Matt Burke said he had “never seen a politician’s ad like this for natural disaster response with such an upbeat election feel”.
But the video received a warmer response from some on Facebook, with commenters on Mr Morrison’s Facebook page praising his leadership.
Reservist callout a ‘first’
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said the compulsory call-out of the 3,000 defence reservists was a first in the nation’s history.
“The Government has not taken this decision lightly. In fact, it is the first time that reserves have been called out in this way in living memory and, in fact, I believe for the first time in our nation’s history,” she said.
Ms Reynolds said reservists who were already engaged in the current emergency response would be exempt from this call-out.
“That includes reservists who are already providing service in volunteer fire services, state fire and rescue [services], state and federal police, ambulance, and [those involved in the] emergency repair of power and communication,” she said.
“Any reservists who find themselves, their family or property under threat from fires, of course, will also be exempt from this call-out.“
Ms Reynolds said the reservists would have four key responsibilities:
Labor leader Anthony Albanese welcomed the Federal Government’s expanded emergency bushfire response and said he asked the Prime Minister to consider the extra measures months ago.
“It’s a good thing that that investment is now happening,” he said.
“It’s one of the things we put on the agenda for the November COAG meeting that we proposed in writing to the Prime Minister and it’s good he’s taking up Labor’s suggestion that we made at that time.”
Mr Morrison said two waterbomber aircraft would arrive within seven days, with the other two available within two weeks.
“What we need are waterbombers that meet the technical and specific requirements of the deployment in Australia,” he said.
“It’s not a matter of just trying to hustle up some planes from somewhere around the world.
“What you need is the precise asset to deal with the situation in Australia, NAFC [National Aerial Firefighting Centre] is an organisation we work through to source and locate the specific aircraft that we need and meet those payments.
“Two of those will be available within seven days and the others will be available within 14 days is my advice. We received the request at 8:00pm last night and we have actioned it today.”
Mr Morrison also confirmed his scheduled visits to India and Japan later this month had been postponed.
He was due to visit India from January 13 to 16 and Japan immediately afterwards.
Mr Morrison came under fire for taking a family vacation in Hawaii as the bushfire crisis unfolded in December.
Bushfire evacuees from the Victorian town of Mallacoota in East Gippsland, on Saturday arrived in Hastings on Navy ships.
About 4,000 people, including some 3,000 tourists, had been stranded in the town since they were forced to shelter on the foreshore as the fire approached on New Year’s Eve.
On Friday, about 1,000 people were ferried to the naval vessels HMAS Choules and MV Sycamore.
Stay across our bushfire coverage:
- Thousands of volunteers ‘caught in red tape’ backlog trying to rejoin firefighting efforts
- Firefighter doing ‘incredibly critical work’ confirmed as third person killed in Victorian fires
- Queensland fire chief rejects criticism over hazard reduction shortfall
- Fire in NSW leaves more than 2,000 homes damaged or destroyed as authorities brace for bad conditions
- Bushfires scare off East Gippsland tourists as businesses face struggle to stay afloat
- Craig Kelly and Piers Morgan in tense exchange over bushfires and climate change
- Western Australia bushfires devastate Stirling Ranges — one of the world’s richest biodiversity hotspots
- Woman suffers severe burns after falling into knee-deep hot ash at bushfire site
- Shane Warne auctions off baggy green for bushfire relief
The fire situation in Victoria and New South Wales is still very volatile and fire crews are expected to battle blazes all through the night with New South Wales still experiencing strong wind gusts.
Multiple fires are burning at emergency level in both states, while in South Australia lives were lost on Kangaroo Island in a day of tragedy.
Look back at how the day unfolded on Saturday.
Fire crews in South Australia have spent the night battling an emergency bushfire on Kangaroo Island, which is threatening to engulf most of Australia’s third-largest island.
- The CFS is battling an emergency blaze on the western half of Kangaroo Island
- The island townships of Vivonne Bay and Parndana have been evacuated
- Ferries are running to get people off the island, and last-resort refuges have been set up
On Friday night, Kangaroo Island’s Ravine fire was described as “virtually unstoppable” and the Country Fire Service (CFS) has issued bushfire warnings for the entire 4,400-square-kilometre island.
At 3:00am Saturday, a watch and act warning was issued for the western end of the island, which includes areas west of Parndana such as Flinders Case, Vivonne Bay, Kelly Hill, Western River, Hanson Bay, Gosselands, Middle River and Stokes Bay.
People located in these areas are urged to leave now as a scrub fire is burning in various locations in the area.
An advice warning is in also place for properties east of Parndarna in the areas of Menzies, Seddon and Seal Bay, including Kingscote and Penneshaw.
People on the eastern half of the island are urged to remain alert and monitor local conditions.
@CFSAlerts tweet: There are two warnings for the #Kangaroo_Island fire. A Watch and Act (yellow) for the western end and an Advice (blue) for the eastern end of the island. Kingscote and Penneshaw have identified Bushfire Safer Places, and it is safe to stay within these locations.
Kingscote and Penneshaw, located on the island’s east, have been identified as Bushfire Safer Places.
The distance from Flinders Chase National Park, where the fire is burning on the western end of the island, to the main town of Kingscote in the east, is about 85 kilometres.
Kangaroo Island Mayor Michael Pengilly has reported significant property damage to hotels and facilities around Flinders Chase National Park.
Up to 150,000 hectares has already been burnt on Kangaroo Island as 150 CFS personnel work to stop the fire’s spread.
CFS deputy chief officer Andrew Stark said the fire conditions “prevailed for far longer than we hoped for” and the fire was “moving in a dangerous manner towards the east”.
“The ferry service will continue to operate for people to get off the island,” he said.
He said the fire was much larger than the 2007 Kangaroo Island blaze, which destroyed 95,000 hectares.
Tourist attractions ablaze on Kangaroo Island
Mr Michael Pengilly said the island’s Visitor Information Centre and Kangaroo Island Wilderness Retreat had been destroyed.
He said the Western KI Caravan Park and Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary had also been significantly impacted.
In a statement, Baillie Lodges, which owns the Southern Ocean Lodge, said the tourist attraction had “sustained significant damage” and all guests and staff were evacuated to Kingscote or Adelaide.
@itsdanibrown tweet: Some international context: In terms of area, Kangaroo Island is three times the size of London, over 1000km2 bigger than Rhode Island, and just over three times the size of Phoenix, Arizona. It’s not just some tiny island off SA’s mainland.
“A small team of six senior staff members remained on-site to monitor the situation and activate the lodge’s fire emergency plan,” it said
“While the lodge has sustained structural damage … no injuries have been sustained.”
Lodge owners James and Hayley Baillie said initial plans were already at hand to rebuild the award-winning luxury lodge.
“We are absolutely shocked and saddened by today’s events,” they said.
The Ravine fire is burning through the Flinders Chase National Park in the island’s west and the CFS has said “firefighters are now unable to prevent the fire spreading”.
“You are in danger. Act now. Identify where you will seek shelter, preferably in a solid building. Only leave if your path is clear to a safer place,” the CFS said.
“Heat from the fire can kill you well before the flames reach you.”
Mr Pengilly said the main priority was “people — locals, visitors, firefighters”.
“The safety of humanity is the prime responsibility at this stage,” he said.
“It has been absolutely devastating. It’s a natural fire, it all started with lightning — it’s Australia, it’s summer and it all started with lightning and the north coast looks like it has been hit by a nuclear bomb.
“Flinders Chase is going to come out of this badly. You can’t stop this thing at the moment, it’s bloody impossible.”
The CFS extended the emergency zone for the Ravine fire to include Vivonne Bay at about 6:00pm, as emergency services worked to evacuate the tourist hub. Parndana has also been evacuated.
‘Truly horrific conditions’ as ‘fire twisters’ flare
Footage of a so-called “fire twister” has revealed the intensity of the flames on the island.
Local resident Brenton posted video to social media of one of several fire twisters breaking out in the inferno, as well as kangaroos fleeing the flames.
A relief centre has been established at the Kingscote Football Club on Centenary Avenue.
Flinders Chase National Park has been closed until further notice, along with several other conservation areas on the island and the mainland.
Kangaroo Island is expecting to host a number of cruise ships in the coming days, anchoring off the coast of Penneshaw.
Mr Stark said a decision would be made on Saturday morning about whether those crews will be allowed to dock.
Police charge man with ‘masquerading’ as fire victim
In the Adelaide Hills, an emergency warning was declared for a fire at Kersbrook late on Friday afternoon but was later downgraded to a watch and act.
In a statement, SA Police said a 59-year-old man was on Friday charged with deception after allegedly “masquerading as a bushfire victim” to receive a benefit.
“His actions have caused a great deal of concern in the Adelaide Hills and police appreciate the information provided by the public which has facilitated his swift arrest,” it stated.
He will appear in the Mount Barker Magistrates Court next month.
Earlier this week, a 39-year-old Murray Bridge woman was charged with falsely claiming to be a bushfire victim to “obtain donations to the value of $300” from a local church.
Adelaide hit 42.1 degrees Celsius at 3:20pm on Friday, with even hotter temperatures inland, including 44.8C at Port Augusta, 45.4C at Wudinna and 45.6C at Tarcoola.
Maybe you started 2019 with a goal of running every day. Maybe you said you’d run a marathon.
But you probably didn’t aspire to run further than a marathon every day for four months to cross the outback, fitting all 136 kilograms of your supplies onto a bicycle pedalled by your husband.
Unless you’re Katie Visco.
The 33-year-old American ran from Darwin to Adelaide — 3,556 kilometres in 119 days — finishing what is the only known transcontinental Australian run with no vehicular support.
Katie loves a good challenge
Katie, who owns and operates a bicycle-powered food delivery service, has a knack for transforming physical challenges into ways of serving others.
In 2009, she completed a 5,040km run across the US, limping the final stage on account of a knee injury.
Katie Visco ran across the US in 2009
She now remembers that journey as approximately “five billion times easier than running across Australia,” in part because she could rely on the people she met as a source of motivation.
“It was basically a speaking tour on two feet,” she said.
“All I wanted to do was get in front of people and share this message of, ‘You’re worth following your dreams and goals in life’.
“I talked to thousands of people. No, literally thousands. I know because I wrote their names down in a spreadsheet. I had so much tangible purpose.”
A decade later, Katie aimed for Australia in part to experience what America didn’t provide: isolation.
“It’s a desert continent. You just have to rely on yourself in the desert,” she said.
“Need breeds creativity and need breeds growth. You go out to nothingness, where there are no people, no water, no re-supply … I wanted the experience so I can be a better me.”
In total, Katie and her husband, Henley Phillips, averaged 45km a day.
They began in July. A typical day involved waking in the dark and rising from a bed of dirt to run and bike until the sun came up an hour later.
After a breakfast of nuts, dried fruit and porridge, it was back to running.
Afternoons in the Tanami Desert — where temperatures can reach 50 degrees Celsius in the coolest months — forced Katie to rest her bruised legs, shake off the bugs and, most importantly, seek out shade.
She’d known to expect the heat. She chuckled through the irony of training in Montana’s frozen winters and sweated through Bikram yoga in the six months before her departure. But the sun’s oppressive qualities still amazed her.
“We’d set up a shade tarp held to a dead branch or a bush or a termite mound,” she said. “Sometimes there was nothing.”
When the sun retreated, it was back to (you guessed it) running before a quick dinner and an early sleep. They did this for 119 days.
The first half of the trip was especially difficult, serving the pair with literal bumps in the road. To avoid traffic, Katie and Henley opted to avoid paved roads when possible.
“The dirt roads have all these corrugations. It feels about like riding a bucking horse,” Henley said.
“Adjusting to that was mentally maddening. It made it to where our pace was different. I was behind Katie on the first section because I couldn’t pedal fast enough to keep up with her.”
While dirt marked the first half of the trip, the second half was nearly cancelled on account of sand.
“South Australia is when the shit hit the fan,” Katie said. “[Henley] was literally pushing a 300-pound bicycle through a sandbox. It could’ve been the end of the trip.”
The physical challenges were great, but the mental challenges were always greater
Both Henley and Katie found themselves questioning the reasons they pursued the goal in the first place.
“Running across Australia has been a long-term love-hate affair,” Katie said. “I’d been dreaming about it from before I ran across America.”
She spent three months in Sydney during her university years and committed to the run in 2013. It wasn’t long after starting training that she developed an insurmountable injury. Two years later, she tried again…and again got injured.
She set aside the goal for a while. She opened up her soup business and got married.
In October 2018 she watched the movie Free Solo, finding it to be a jolting reminder of what it’s like to stick to a dream through the impossible.
“This first and foremost was for myself,” she says of her decision to recommit to the run. “It’s hard to legitimise going and doing this crazy thing primarily for oneself.”
“I’ve gotten comments like, ‘You should consider doing this for charity,’ which was like saying, ‘You should be doing this for a purpose.’ I had a hard time hearing that because I did do this for a reason — I did it for the most important purpose, which is to do something for myself so I can grow.
“That’s the only way I can serve others is if I take the time to do some things for myself.”
Patience and self-compassion were key lessons to be learned
In a way, that lesson of serving others by serving yourself is the same one that Henley learned as he cursed himself for struggling behind Katie in the sand and corrugations.
“Because I was a support person, I felt like I couldn’t or shouldn’t be behind her,” he said.
“I felt like I can’t have a bad day. I was having bad days and didn’t want to express it because I’d be bringing the team down.”
It was only when he took the time to prioritise his needs and voice his struggles with Katie that he gained self-acceptance and a new source of mental strength.
In the end, both Henley and Katie say they’ll approach challenges with more patience and self-compassion from now on.
That’ll come in handy for the next trip. A common result of achieving your goals is developing the propensity to reach for more.
“Adventuring is in our bones. We just have to do it,” Katie says before offering her advice for those who’ve got a wild idea in their bones as well.
“Just get off your rump and do the damn thing.”