After the first day of Tasmania's devestating bushfires which destroyed over 100 homes and businesses on the Tasman peninsula, the Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced an emergency assistance package to Tasmanian Bushfire victims. The Insurance Council of Australia has also formally declared the Forcett and Dunalley zone of south-east Tasmania a catastrophe. This means that insurers will establish a taskforce to escalate the industry's response.
The emergency measures announced by the Prime Minister include grants for emergency cash assistance, temporarty living, essential household goods, and repair and replacement assistance for re-establishment of the principal place of residence.
The assistance will be jointly funded by the Commonwealth and the Tasmanian Government under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements to help alleviate the personal hardship being experienced by individuals and families, said the media statement.
ICA CEO Rob Whelan said "It is much too early for the ICA to estimate the cost and extent of the damage, though we have had reports of several dozen homes having been badly damaged or destoyed," Mr Whelan said.
"The ICA is liaising with the Tasmanian Government, the Tasmanian Fire Service, State Emergency Service and local governments to get a more accurate assessment."
The ICA will be sending a team to the disaster recovery centre to work alongside emergency services, government agencies and community organisations.
There are three large fires continuing to burn out of control. The Forcett fire continues to burn isolating the Tasman Peninsula via the Arthur Highway since Friday morning. An estimated 1000 people last night and today were evacuated by boat from the Peninsula, with meals, essential supplies and health workers also being carried in by boat.
Property losses have been substantial including many buildings in Dunalley including the school and police station. Other towns affected include Connellys Marsh, where an estimated 40 per cent of the buildings are gone, three houses at Copping and several houses at Primrose Sands. Reports of about 20 houses destroyed in Murdunna and loss of houses in Eaglehawk Neck.
Telstra crews have set up generators at Nubeena, Koonya and Dunalley exchanges and are planning to set up a kiosk in Dunalley to assist customers requiring help with temporary service via satellite.
Aurora Energy say that there may be lengthy delays in restoring electricity after the fire passes. "It is estimated that in the Forcett fire alone more than 300 poles and scores of
transformers have been destroyed, just on the main roads. Much of the electricity supply to the Forestier Peninsula and Tasman Peninsula is via a single spur line, now effectively destroyed by the fire." says a media release (PDF).
Despite an unconfirmed report of a casualty Friday night, there are still no confirmed deaths from these bushfires.
A second fire on the east Coast near Bicheno has cut of the holiday town of Coles Bay. There are reports of properties destroyed by this fire, but no towns are currently threatened.
A third fire near Lake Repulse is rampaging in the Derwent Valley, northwest of Hobart, near the communities of Ellendale and Karanja. Several properties are believed to have been destroyed and 9530 ha. already burnt. The fire is threatening Lawrenny and Hamilton on Saturday evening. The Tasmanian Fire Service may be using the River Derwent as a fire break, protecting Hamilton.
The Tasmania Fire service has been overwhelmed with donation offers. They have requested dontaions should be made through the Salvation Army (Salvos) and St Vincent De Paul (Vinnies). An appeal has gone out for needing in particular: 1 Money, 2 Blankets/bedding, 3 Toiletry packs, 4 New clothing, 5 Children’s / babies needs. CALL 131 812 to donate.
- Insurance Council of Australia Media Release - Insurance Council declares Catastrophe for SE Tasmanian Bushfires
- Prime Minister of Australia Press Office, 5 January 2012 - Support for Tasmanian Bushfire Victims
- SBS World News 5 January 2013 - Boats rescue people stranded by Tas fire
- Image - Bushfire Rage - Lake Repulse fire taken by ToniFish/Flickr Creative Commons licensed (CC BY 2.0)