Monday February 9, 2009
Money is pouring into the Victorian Bushfire Fund set up to provide vital support to people affected by the devastating fires that have ravaged much of Victoria over the past few days.
By mid afternoon today, the Australian public had pledged nearly $7 million dollars through the Red Cross website and call centre since the appeal was launched by the State and Federal Governments late yesterday.
Australian Red Cross Chief Executive Officer Robert Tickner said the response from Australians had been overwhelming with the fund continuing to grow at a rapid pace, but the needs of those affected are massive.
'The response so far has been incredible,' Mr Tickner said. 'We have been inundated with people wanting to contribute in some way and in just under 24 hours, we have received pledges from nearly 40,000 people from across Australia,' he said.
'We would like to thank those who have given generously and reiterate to people who want to help that the best way they can do that is by donating to the appeal,' he said.
'But this is without doubt one of the biggest disasters Australia has ever faced - the needs are enormous, and we need the response from Australians to be enormous as well.'
Donations to the Victorian Bushfire Fund will directly assist individuals, businesses and communities affected by the fires.
People should ring 1800 811 700 if they wish to donate to the Victorian Bushfire Fund or donate online at www.redcross.org.au. Due to the huge volume of people who wish to help, there may be some short delays and Red Cross is asking people to remain patient and try again a little later.
As fires continue to burn across Victoria, more than 400 Red Cross volunteers are still working in the field, staffing relief centres and continuing to ensure that basic needs are met with food, information and support.
Approximately 5,000 people have so far registered with Red Cross at relief centres and that number is continuing to increase. People evacuated from areas under threat can also register online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volunteers at the Red Cross-run State Inquiry Centre have responded to close to 4,000 enquiries from people unable to contact loved ones. People should ring 1800 727 077 or email email@example.com only if they are unable to contact someone in the affected areas. For enquiries from overseas only, the number is +61 3 9328 3716.
Please do not use this line to offer assistance or donations. It is important that the State Inquiry Centre lines are kept free for registrations and inquiries.
Given the nature of the emergency, Red Cross asks that people contacting the State Inquiry Centre please remain patient.
For information on fires in Victoria and general fire safety advice, call 1800 240 667.