Convoy a lifeline

Convoy a lifeline

While works will continue for some time to make the Princes Highway west of Genoa safe for travel, visitors still stranded in Mallacoota and residents looking to leave are receiving opportunities to do so, thanks to emergency services resources.

A community meeting on Sunday afternoon provided residents and those visitors yet to leave with an update of the town’s situation.

Victoria Police, CFA and Ambulance Victoria were able on Sunday morning to coordinate a large-scale vehicle evacuation from Mallacoota to Eden, and again yesterday.

On Sunday a convoy of 67 civilian cars, 11 CFA trucks and an ambulance was able to leave Mallacoota, travelling the one and a half hour journey to make it safely to Eden without incident. Once it reached the highway at Genoa, the convoy stretched for about 10 kilometres.

The convoy was made possible by Forest Fire Management crews who had been working tirelessly for 12 days walking, marking, clearing and treating hazardous trees by hand for 74.4 kilometres.

It was a significant moment for Mallacoota residents as it was the first chance they had to leave the town by land since being cut off by fires and the resultant road closures. Another convoy left for Eden yesterday morning.

While the roads remain only accessible by emergency vehicle, yesterday’s convoy, and convoys expected to take place regularly until full road access is attainable, allow Mallacoota residents who feel a need to ‘get out of town for a bit’ to head to Eden for the day, leaving with the 10am convoy and returning with a 4pm convoy from Eden, a welcome opportunity for many in the town.

The Princes Highway remains closed from Orbost to the New South Wales border with the road extremely dangerous and providing many challenges. In order to get to Mallacoota, the Australian Defence Force was forced to cut its way through with trees down right along the highway and others in danger of falling. Fixing the problem will be very slow with no time line available as to when public access will be made available.

Receiving a cheer from the crowd at Sunday’s meeting was the announcement that successful delivery of fuel meant the town’s two service stations now have readily available fuel for use by the community with expectations that this availability would remain.

After an extended period without power, by Sunday afternoon 85 per cent of the town had been reconnected to the power grid.

IMAGE: Following his $70 million support for those affected by Australian bushfires, corporate philanthropist, Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest, visited Mallacoota and Bairnsdale on Saturday with representatives from his Minderoo Foundation. Mr Forrest was well received when he addressed the daily meeting at the Mallacoota Refuge Centre. PICTURED: Mr Forrest with Mallacoota Lions Club members, Paul Preston and Gordon Symons. S18-9946