At least 26 people have lost their lives, more than 2000 homes have been destroyed and an estimated one billion-plus animals are dead as fires burn through more than 11 million hectares of land across Australia.
On entering Conjola
Shoalhaven City Council Mayor, Amanda Findley: “Yesterday I was given permission to enter Conjola for a short time and it was impossible not to shed tears.
“Knowing that some of our dear ones have died in this fire – their families are top of mind.
“Driving through the wreckage of what once were beautiful homes that were filled with peoples treasures the tears rolled – those homes were all of our friends – we have laughed there, we have cried, we have dangled babes on our knees, we have celebrated the lives of those that have gone and it is these precious memories about the places we live in that cannot be taken from us and are so much more
“It will take us time to mend our hearts and our homes but we can and will do it.
“I can’t share pictures of devastation right now but I can share this heart warming story of Brett Cripps who crammed 11 people and a dog into a small boat and saved their lives – they are so grateful to be alive and their smiles were infectious – the clothes they are wearing have been given to them by generous strangers, Brad and Hayley found them a bed at the van park, and people nearby were cooking them a feed.
“Just one of the incredible stories of survival that I heard during that brief visit yesterday.”
On the morning of 4 January 2020, MV Sycamore arrived safely at Hastings carrying around 60 evacuees from Mallacoota in Victoria’s far northeast. This was followed by over 1000 more evacuees and pets arriving later in the day via HMAS Choules.
Mornington Peninsula Shire Mayor, Sam Hearn, said this has been a fantastic example of over 200 staff and volunteers from Mornington Peninsula Shire, state government emergency agencies and community organisations working together.
“Today’s efforts ensured this evacuation ran smoothly and supported fellow Victorians at a difficult time.”
Police praised the City of Whyalla, South Australia, and Mayor, Clare McLaughlin, for their prompt action setting up roadblocks to keep motorists safe, during the recent Miltalie fire.
Receiving a call for assistance from Inspector Hubbard, Mayor McLaughlin personally co-ordinated the Council effort with a crew raised and road signs rushed out to the fire affected area.
“This was a great example of the police, fire fighting services and Council working together to ensure that residents remain safe and the community is kept informed of the situation,” the Mayor said.
New Year’s Eve fireworks cancelled
Councils across the country cancelled scheduled New Year’s Eve fireworks due to inclement weather and fire conditions.
City of Sydney pyrotechnic display proceeded raising in excess of $2 million for the Red Cross bushfire appeal.
East-west border closed
The Eyre Highway linking Western Australia and South Australia was closed at the border leaving more than 300 people stranded.
A large scale evacuation of travellers and truck drivers began along the 710 km stretch of road as the wind swung round to the north, blowing the fire away from the road and opening a window of opportunity.
The Kangaroo Island inferno claimed the lives of a father and son and almost half of the island has now been destroyed.
World Wildlife Fund estimates that over 500 million animals have been killed in the NSW bushfires since September.
This includes the death of thousands of koalas, with many more injured and countless are now homeless.
LG leads recovery
The Federal Government will give an initial and immediate base payment of $1 million to 42 of the most severely bushfire impacted councils in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland to help quickly rebuild vital infrastructure and strengthen community resilience.
A further $18 million will be set aside to provide additional support to larger council areas which have experienced the most significant damage, with the National Bushfire Recovery Coordinator, Andrew Colvin, working with state governments and impacted local councils on determining this additional allocation.