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Red Cross working day and night to help victims of Victorian bushfires

Sunday February 8, 2009

'We are now hearing stories of people escaping fires only to watch their homes go up in flames in literally minutes,' said Adam Dent, State Manager Emergency Services, Red Cross. 'But we are also seeing incredible efforts from Red Cross volunteers, the fire-fighters, the SES and other agencies.'

'All these people are doing an amazing job in some of the most trying conditions we have seen for years.'

Red Cross staff and volunteers are working at 20 relief centres to support people affected by the fires, including at Whittlsea north of Melbourne, where many people from the devastated township of Kinglake are currently taking shelter.

They are providing meals for fire fighters, police, and people in the relief centres. First aid volunteers are assisting emergency services personnel and other affected people by treating mainly fire related injuries like minor burns and smoke inhalation.

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

Sean Doherty from Kinglake described how every one of the 45 houses in his part of the fire ravaged township 'were exploding -- the houses weren't burning, they were exploding'.

Other people at the relief centre described the speed and ferocity of the fires as 'like nothing we had ever seen, it was terrifying.'

Mr Dent said hundreds of concerned people had called the Red Cross operated State Inquiry Centre for news of loved ones caught up in the fires, and thousands more had registered their details.

'We're not sure of the final impact as many of the fires are still burning' said Mr Dent 'but we know that people need our help now, and they will continue to need it for some time yet.'