2016 has barely begun and already Australia is in the grip of fires and floods across the country. Serious floods have swamped parts of the Northern Territory and New South Wales, while Victoria and Western Australia have been hit by major bushfires. Across these diverse emergencies and in all major locations, Red Cross volunteers are on the ground helping people most in need.
Thursday January 7, 2016
An out-of-control blaze burning near the West Australian towns of Waroona and Preston Beach, south of Perth, has consumed more than 11,000 hectares of land. Credit: AAP Image/Waroona Police
Responding to fires in Western Australia
Right now, a fast-moving fire sparked by lightning on Wednesday 6 January is burning its way through the Shire of Waroona in WA. The fire has already burnt 11,000 hectares, and almost 2,000 residents were asked to leave their homes in the early hours of the morning of 7 January as a precaution.
Emergency warnings are in place for people in the region and evacuation centres have been set up at Murray Leisure Centre in Pinjarra and Harvey Town Hall. Red Cross volunteers are now working in the two evacuation centres and are helping people separated by the fires reunite through the Register.Find.Reunite. service.
Anyone caught up in the fire who wants to locate family and friends is encouraged to register and inquire at register.redcross.org.au or by calling 1800 015 337.
Floods in New South Wales
While the temperature soars to 39 degrees in the west of the country, New South Wales has experienced a deluge of heavy rain over the past few days. Flood warnings are in place throughout NSW and evacuation orders have been issued for parts of Dungog and Raymond Terrace-some of the same areas that were impacted by the April 2015 storms.
Red Cross volunteers are helping people in the evacuation centres in Raymond Terrace and Dungog and are will head out into the affected communities in the coming days, including to go door to door to make sure people are safe and well and have all the support they need.
Daly River evacuation
Meanwhile, in the Northern Territory, Red Cross workers continue to care for hundreds of people in Darwin's Foskey Pavilion evacuation centre. Serious flooding in the Naiyu (Daly River) region at Christmas saw 479 residents airlifted to the safety of Darwin. Given the widespread flooding, it is expected to be many days before the evacuated community can return home.
Until then, on behalf of the NT Government, Red Cross is managing the evacuation centre and more than 40 Red Cross volunteers and staff from the area have been offering practical and emotional support as well as organising transport, games, sports and recreational activities to community members who have had to leave their homes and need a safe place to stay.
Life inside an evacuation centre can be extremely difficult for people who are unable to return to their homes following a disaster, particularly if they are away from home for extended periods. Red Cross is are working directly with the community, its Elders and NT Government to do all it can to ensure issues are worked through and people receive the support they need.
Recovering from the Surf Coast fires
On the other side of the country in Victoria, communities along the Great Ocean Road are recovering from the devastating fires. Tourists and residents alike were forced to evacuate to relief centres set up in Apollo Bay and Torquay from the fires that swept through the region over the Christmas period. The areas most seriously affected were around Wye River and Separation Creek where 116 houses were lost.
Red Cross staff and volunteers were there to provide much needed help to people and reconnected friends and family separated by the disaster through the Register.Find.Reunite. service. With the immediate fire danger over, Red Cross volunteers are continuing to support people in the area as they revisit their properties, check on their welfare and working closely with our local, regional and state partners to assist with relief and recovery planning.
To help Red Cross provide valuable assistance to people caught up in disasters like the fires and floods affecting Australia right now, you can donate to Red Cross' Disaster Relief and Recovery work. Donations can be made online at redcross.org.au/disaster or by calling 1800 811 700.
Emergencies like these can be extremely distressing. If you or someone you know has been affected by fires or floods, Red Cross has a range of resources to help you recover from a disaster. And with summer predicted to bring more extreme heat and the potential for disasters, make sure you and your family get prepared and make an emergency plan with Red Cross' free disaster preparedness guide.