Released 9 February 2009
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Melbourne, Australia: Salvation Army personnel in
Australia are providing vital assistance to emergency service workers and other
people affected by the bushfires that have killed a record number of people in
the State of Victoria. Over the weekend of 7/8 February, 225 volunteers in 16
teams worked alongside emergency service crews and devastated communities to
provide chaplaincy support to those assisting with the emergency and to
families and individuals who are in shock from the enormity of the disaster.
The bushfires have taken the lives of at least 108 people, with the toll
expected to rise as emergency teams gain access to devastated areas. The latest
death toll surpasses that of the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires, in which 75
people died in Victoria and South Australia, and the Black Friday bushfires of
1939 which killed 71 people. Dozens of towns are still under threat as fires
continue to burn out of control.
Firefighters worked through the night to battle 31 fires across Victoria
that have destroyed at least 750 homes. Hundreds of local firefighters were
joined by 92 from Tasmania and 150 from New South Wales. Reinforcements from
New Zealand are expected to arrive soon.
The Salvation Army is heavily involved in the response phase of this
emergency, providing emergency accommodation, clothing, toiletries and other
goods, and supplying food and refreshments for firefighters and bushfire
victims. The outpouring of support from individuals, communities and businesses
willing to become involved in Salvation Army relief efforts has been
The Salvation Army Overdale Rural Rehabilitation Centre in Kilmore was razed
to the ground by one of the fires. This facility provided rehabilitation
services to hundreds of Victorians since its establishment six years ago. It
has been totally destroyed, along with vehicles, equipment and medications. The
residents had been evacuated on Saturday afternoon and were not harmed.
The Salvation Army's Australia Southern Territory launched a public appeal
and the response from the corporate community, as well as from individuals, is
encouraging and uplifting. In the first day of the appeal, more than Aus$1
million was given by corporate and private donors, as well as goods in kind for
affected communities. There is a great deal of interest from the media - in
Australia and around the world - as to how The Salvation Army is providing
The coming days are expected to be critical and it is anticipated that the
fires may take several days to control and extinguish. The Salvation Army will
move towards the recovery phase in the next few days, working with the affected
communities to help people rebuild their lives.
Colonel Raymond Finger, Chief Secretary