Fires rage as Victorian business counts cost

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  1. Heinz

    Heinz Active Member

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    Fires rage as Victorian business counts cost | The Australian

    A $100 MILLION price tag has been put on the past week's scorching heatwave in Victoria.

    The estimate from business came as hundreds of firefighters were last night battling a blaze that destroyed homes in Gippsland and threatened a vital power line to Melbourne.

    The Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the construction industry was worst hit, with workers forced to abandon sites as temperatures hit the 40s.

    Thousands more businesses suffered lost productivity when workers turned up hours late after being stranded by the failed public transport system.

    VECCI workplace relations chief David Gregory said Friday night's black-out, which left 500,000 homes and businesses without power, would drive the cost of the heatwave up to more than $100 million.

    As the state continued to swelter, up to 20 houses were destroyed in a fire - believed to have been deliberately lit - that raged across Gippsland, threatening Boolarra, Yinnar and Mirboo North.

    The fire threatened a major transmission line supplying electricity to Melbourne, while power generators in the Latrobe Valley went on high alert.

    The State Government announced emergency help for people affected by the fires, offering $1000 instant payments and means-tested grants of up to $22,000.

    Prime Minister Kevin Rudd described the damage caused by bushfires as "appalling".

    "The southern part of the nation is a tinder box right now," he said.

    Victoria Police said 26 people died suddenly in the heatwave, an "unusually high" number.

    But they could not say how many were directly caused by the heat.

    Almost 90 people sought treatment for heat-related conditions at the Alfred, Sandringham and Royal Melbourne hospitals.

    Ambulance services were called out 60 times yesterday to help people suffering heat stress.

    Melbourne's water storages plunged by 0.7 per cent in a week, down to 33.1 per cent capacity, as Victoria recorded its second-driest January on record.

    At least 26 Connex trains were cancelled yesterday and 25 V/Line services were replaced by buses.

    Wimmera hamlet Jeparit may have recorded the state's hottest temperature - 50.9C on Wednesday. Jeparit CFA volunteer Alicia Rosewall measured the top temperature on her back porch and said she had never seen it so hot.

    Officially, the weather bureau said Avalon Airport was the hottest spot in the state, recording 46C on Thursday.

    About 100 customers remained without power yesterday, some for the third day.

    Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu said Melbourne's meltdown was embarrassing, with the eyes of the world on the Australian Open.

    "We run the risk of being a laughing stock internationally," he said.

    "We have an important international event in Melbourne at the moment and people can see what is going on here - not enough water, not enough power, trains out, blackouts and the Government scrambling around making excuses."

    Premier John Brumby defended Victoria's power system, but said he could not guarantee another "catastrophic incident" would not occur.

    "We're in uncharted waters, unprecedented conditions," he said.

    "I can never guarantee that there won't be an explosion at the grid or that fires won't get into power lines."

    Before a cool change arrived, the Government came close to invoking emergency powers to restrict energy use.

    The meltdown made international headlines, with London's Daily Telegraph reporting: "There was chaos in Melbourne. . . Commuters, described as 'cooking in the heat', were stuck on trains and trams for hours."


    ( And the really enraging part)

    Search on for suspected arsonist in Vic bushfires - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

    Search on for suspected arsonist in Vic bushfires

    Victorian police are appealing for information from the public as they search for an arsonist believed responsible for the 6,500-hectare fire in the state's east which has destroyed homes.

    Police say they had been investigating deliberately lit fires in the Latrobe Valley and the surrounding Gippsland area before the Delburn Complex fire took hold late last week.

    About six fires have broken out in the past 24 hours and while lightning is believed to be the cause of four of them, it is suspected an arsonist may be behind two.

    Police are waiting for fire conditions to ease further before investigators can thoroughly inspect the area where the blaze is believed to have started.

    The number of property losses continues to rise.

    The fire has destroyed homes, property and livestock in the Yinnar, Boolarra, Mirboo North and surrounding areas.

    Victorian emergency authorities have revised the number of houses destroyed by the huge fire to 29.

    Sixty-four sheds and a piggery have also been lost and fire crews are continuing assessments around the worst hit areas of Boolarra and Durlimarla.

    Residents of those townships are now returning to their properties.

    A cool change and light drizzle has brought some relief to hundreds of crews fighting the blaze, but the CFA expects more wind changes to cause problems with the blacking out operation.

    Authorities say the main threat to communities has passed, for now.


    Arson crackdown

    Meanwhile, Victorian Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu has called for tougher arson penalties.

    "There's much more that you could do in terms of penalties. We've called for a national register of arsonists, in the past we have called for mandatory minimum penalties for arsonists," he said.

    "It's totally unacceptable behaviour and Victorians would despise anybody who's done that."

    It comes as the Australian Institute of Criminology today releases a report saying that half of the nation's 20,000 to 30,000 vegetation fires each year are deliberately lit, costing the community $1.6 billion per year.

    Mr Baillieu says the estimated $100 million cost of last week's heatwave has tarnished the state's reputation.

    About 1,300 train services were cancelled leading to an increase in the number of people not showing up for work, and hundreds of building sites across Victoria came to a standstill in the sweltering conditions.

    Mr Baillieu says the state's inability to cope with the extreme conditions is a direct result of the Brumby Government failing to invest in infrastructure.

    "We have lost wages, we have lost stock, we've lost sales, we've lost reputation, we've lost capacity and the Government has to take responsibility for that and understand that there is a cost to it and more should have been done to prevent these sort of things from happening," he said.
     
  2. 109ROAMING

    109ROAMING Active Member

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    We had one out of control up north only just come under control

    Real basstards these fires
     
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