Community unites to help evacuated people

Authorities knew they had a battle on their hands last week when the Jamieson Track fire started. Picture supplied.

Authorities knew they had a battle on their hands last week when the Jamieson Track fire started. Picture supplied.

COLAC OTWAY Shire’s mayor has praised the Apollo Bay and neighbouring coastal communities for “banding together” to help people evacuated during the Christmas Day fires.

Cr Frank Buchanan said more than 50 people who had fled the fires to Apollo Bay thought they would have been sleeping on the floor of Apollo Bay’s leisure centre on Christmas night.

But he said communities members continued to call in and offer beds to those evacuated from Wye River and Separation Creek until “everyone had a place to go”.

Residents went by bus to Wye River to see the destruction of the Christmas Day bushfire.

Residents went by bus to Wye River to see the destruction of the Christmas Day bushfire.

“The only ones sleeping at the emergency relief centre we’d set up were the staff and volunteers,” Cr Buchanan said.

He said the council had and would continue to work with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Country Fire Authority and other emergency services to support residents and holidaymakers since their Christmas Day evacuation.

He said he knew how much Wye River and Separation Creek residents wanted to get back to their homes, which was also a priority for the emergency services, but authorities had to be sure the area was safe.

“We’re also hoping to get the Great Ocean Road open as soon as possible, our community really wants the road open but only when it’s safe to do so.

“The cooler weather has helped us but beyond the relief we’re providing at the moment, we still have a huge task ahead of us,” Cr Buchanan said yesterday, as he boarded a community bus to take homeowners to see their properties.

Cr Buchanan said he was also “immensely proud” of council staff who left their families Christmas Day to help at the Apollo Bay relief centre.

“There were at least 20 staff here; the care and compassion they showed was fantastic.”

Cr Buchanan said the support offered by Premier Dan Andrews and Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett who flew down to a community meeting in Apollo Bay on Boxing Day was also encouraging.

“People have been extremely grateful of all the support; there’s so many stories of people just seeing someone distressed, people who’ve lost their permanent homes, and just jumping in and doing what they can.

“And that’s what we have to keep doing, don’t stop, just keep going.”

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