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Red Cross readies to help thousands affected by Victorian bushfires

Saturday February 7, 2009

Red Cross volunteers at relief centres in Kilmore, Warragul, Pakenham, Morwell, Coleraine and Horsham are registering the names of people affected by the fires so that concerned family and friends can check on their wellbeing and whereabouts.

The State Inquiry Centre has been set up with volunteers responding to enquiries from families and friends of affected people. People should ring 1800 727 077 if they are unable to contact someone in the affected areas.

Adam Dent, Red Cross State Manager of Emergency Services, said Red Cross is currently working closely with local councils and emergency services to help affected communities during a difficult time.

'There is no doubt that the situation is worsening. We are expecting over 1,000 evacuees in Traralgon alone over the coming hours,' Mr Dent said.

Red Cross volunteers are also providing meals for fire fighters, police and other emergency services personnel, as well as people in relief centres. In Horsham, Red Cross catering volunteers are preparing meals and refreshments for 400 fire fighters.

First aid volunteers are assisting emergency services personnel and affected people in Warragul and Traralgon.

Red Cross personal support volunteers are on hand to provide practical assistance to evacuees, as well as emotional support, information and referrals to recovery services.

'People who are heading to relief centres are going through a really tough time at the moment. From our perspective, it's important that they receive as much assistance as possible,' Mr Dent said.

Red Cross emergency volunteers have been on alert across the state over the past two months. Volunteers have worked in Victoria throughout January, with fires in the Gippsland area and emergency call outs as a result of heat in various locations.

Three hundred and eighty people received assistance from Red Cross volunteers during this period.

'Summer is always a busy time for us and with the recent high temperatures and today's heat, we had anticipated that our volunteers would be needed,' Mr Dent said. Red Cross is also providing support to people affected by the heatwave in South Australia and flooding in Queensland.

'It is extremely timely for people to review their household emergency plans. These situations will always be traumatic, however we see time and again how being prepared for a disaster makes a huge difference,' he said.

For advice on how to prepare for and recover from a disaster, download Red Cross Emergency REDiPlan materials (link below).

Red Cross plays a vital role during emergencies under Victoria's Emergency Management Arrangements. These services are funded through campaigns such as Red Cross Calling, which begins on 1 March 2009.