Australia – VIC – Communities to mark 50th anniversary of devastating fires

Tuesday 8 January 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the devastating bushfires of 1969.

On that day 230 fires burned across Victoria, of which 21 were serious including fires in Lara, Darraweit Guim, Daylesford, Bulgana, Yea, Kangaroo Flat and Korongvale.

More than 250,000 hectares, 230 houses and 12,000 livestock were destroyed. Tragically 21 people died, including two CFA volunteers. Hundreds were injured.

Although dry and hot throughout January that year, the weather on 8 January 1969 was unexpected. A weather system that developed in the western Bass Strait that morning brought strong gale force winds to much of the state, causing some fires from the day before to reignite and fanning new fires. 

The worst fires were in the open farm land around Lara near Geelong. It is estimated that the fire travelled up to 11 kilometres per hour that day due to the 119 kilometre winds and low humidity. Lara was almost wiped off the map as the fire burned from the You Yangs to Corio Bay.

The township experienced the most significant deaths with 18 people losing their lives.

The fire in Lara moved so quickly that motorists on the Princes Highway had little chance of escaping as the fire crossed the highway in the mid-morning. 

Some of the 17 who died on the highway had panicked and jumped from their cars in dense smoke in an effort to flee the fire on foot.

Two brothers who sheltered in their car through the worst of the fire front survived. It was the first time that evidence suggested that it was safer to remain in a car during a fire rather than abandoning it – advice that is used today.

In addition to the 18 deaths, more than 40 homes were destroyed, the primary school and church were gone, and vital railway infrastructure was burning.

The other major fire that day occurred in Darraweit Guim where strong winds swept flames through more than 20,000 acres of farmland and crops in a matter of minutes, destroying 12 homes, two churches, thousands of livestock as well as farm machinery and stock feed.

Communications were also disrupted as power poles caught fire and fell to the ground.  

That evening a cool change with heavy rain brought an end to the worst of the fire threat and welcome relief to the state.

The Lara and Little River communities will come together on Sunday 6 January 2019 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the fires and those who lost their lives. All events are free.

 •Church Service at Holy Trinity Church Flinders Ave. Lara, 10am to 11am

•Commemoration Service at the Lara Fires Memorial (next to the Lara Library), 11.30am to 12.30pm

•Community gathering at Lara Community Centre, 12.30pm to 1.30pm

•Guided bus tour by Captain Terry Hedt who fought in the 1969 fires. Limited seats, 1.30pm (departing Lara Community Centre)

For more information on these events, visit the Lara CFA Facebook page.

Australia – SA – Interesting follow-up eight years after successful SAR operation

An overturned vessel found off the coast of Kangaroo Island on New Year’s Eve has been identified as the ‘Wild Eyes’.

The vessel was spotted from the air by a tuna spotting plane about 11 nautical miles south of Vivonne Bay, Kangaroo Island about 12.30pm on Monday 31 December.  The police helicopter (PolAir) was sent to investigate, along with two commercial fishing vessels operating nearby.

The boat was subsequently identified as the ‘Wild Eyes’, which had been abandoned eight years ago in the middle of the Indian Ocean during a round the world voyage.

On 10 June 2010, the “Wild Eyes” was dismasted in rough seas halfway between the Western Australian coast and Africa in the Indian Ocean while American Abby Sunderland was attempting to become the youngest person to sail around the world solo.  A rescue was coordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and she was eventually rescued by a French commercial fishing vessel on 12 June.

Australia – QLD – QFES asks far north residents and visitors to prepare for TC Penny

Tropical Cyclone (TC) Penny is expected to cause wild weather across far north Queensland in the coming days and everyone in the region is being asked to prepare for heavy rainfall, damaging winds and possible flash flooding.

Communities located between Cape York and Pormpuraaw are being asked to ensure their properties are prepared before taking shelter when the system crosses the coast this afternoon.  

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) advised Tropical Cyclone Penny had formed in the eastern Gulf of Carpentaria this morning (Tuesday) and is expected to cross the coast near Weipa this afternoon as a category 1 cyclone. 

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) Far Northern Region Assistant Commissioner John Bolger said it was important for locals to follow the directions of authorities and either shelter in place until the cyclone passed or relocate to a safer place if asked.

“Those who remain in place should shelter in the strongest part of the house and ensure their emergency kit is close by,” Mr Bolger said.

“It’s also important that people stay inside until they receive official advice that the cyclone has passed. Some people are not aware of the calm eye of the cyclone and mistakenly venture outside thinking that the threat has passed.

“Keep up to date with the movement and severity of the cyclone by listening to local radio and watching the BoM website.”

With Tropical Cyclone Penny expected to track towards the eastern coast of far north Queensland after making landfall, communities in the Cape York Peninsula and parts of the north tropical coast are being asked to finalise their preparations.

“If you are visiting or holidaying in Queensland and do not have family or friends to shelter with, contact your accommodation manager immediately to identify the options available,” Mr Bolger said.

“If you are a resident and you don’t have a safe location to go to, please contact your local council for options.”

Importantly, Mr Bolger said the intense rainfall could result in flash flooding of creeks, drains and causeways. 

“The simple and constant message here is if it’s flooded, forget it.

“Under no circumstance should people enter flooded creeks or causeways by road or on foot. If you come across rising floodwaters, turn around and seek an alternative route.

“Parents, please also discourage your children from playing or swimming in flooded creeks and drains. Floodwaters can be deadly and there are many dangers lurking beneath the surface.”

State Emergency Service (SES) Regional Director Wayne Coutts said SES crews would be on hand to help the community as soon as it is safe to do so. 

“The public are asked to remember that the SES is made up of volunteers dedicated to helping others and the SES will always put the safety of its volunteers first during adverse weather conditions,” Mr Coutts said. 

“The SES will also assist the most vulnerable members of the community first so it is important able-bodied residents do everything they can to help themselves and their community instead of putting unnecessary pressure on emergency authorities.”

For storm and flood assistance contact the State Emergency Service (SES) on 132 500 and in a life threatening emergency call Triple Zero (000). 

For further information on how to prepare your home visit and to keep updated on warnings monitor the BoM website at

Australia – NSW – Measles alert

NSW Health is warning people to be alert for signs and symptoms of measles, after three infectious cases have been notified in the Christmas-New Year period.

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness which begins with a cough, fever, sore, red eyes and runny nose, followed three to four days later by a red spotty rash which begins on the face and neck and spreads to the rest of the body.

People who are experiencing signs and symptoms of measles should seek medical attention. NSW Health recommends calling ahead to the practice or emergency department to alert of them of your symptoms, so that measures can be taken to limit your exposure to others upon your arrival.

Symptoms usually begin to appear around 10 days after exposure to an infectious case, however the time from exposure to onset can be as long as 18 days.

Update 3 January 2019

A child visiting from overseas developed measles symptoms while visiting NSW on Christmas Eve. Prior to being diagnosed with measles and isolated the child visited the several locations. People who were at these locations at the same time as the child may be at risk of developing measles up to January 18:

Thursday 27 DecemberChatswood Medical and Dental Centre, 7 – 8pm
Thursday 27 DecemberChatswood Mall, including Chemist Warehouse, late afternoon
Friday 28 DecemberOakvale Winery, Pokolbin, 5 – 6pm
Saturday 29 DecemberDinner at Bimbadgen Winery, Pokolbin, 6:30 – 8pm
Sunday 30 DecemberChatswood Medical and Dental Centre, 3-4pm
Monday 31 December- New Year’s DayRoyal North Shore Emergency Department, 11pm – 1am

Australia – ACT – Update on measles in the ACT

The individual is in isolation at the Canberra Hospital and in line with the national guidelines, Health Protection Service staff are currently contacting people who have been in contact with the person.

Dr Kelly said this was the first case of measles to be notified in the ACT in 2019.

“We believe the individual is likely to have acquired the infection from the measles case reported in the ACT in mid-December,” Dr Kelly said.

“As the person did not attend any public venues or events in the ACT whilst infectious, we are advising the community that there is minimal risk of exposure to the general public.

“Contacts with the individual have been able to be identified and ACT Health staff are following-up with these people directly.

“As the individual travelled in NSW between Christmas and the New Year, we are working closely with NSW Health, who are also providing information to their local communities,” Dr Kelly said.

As Measles can be highly contagious among people who are not fully immunised, ACT Health is taking the opportunity to reiterate important health advice on measles and to know the symptoms. These include a fever, tiredness, cough, runny nose and sore eyes, followed up by a rash.

Anyone with symptoms of measles should seek medical advice, advising their health care provider before they arrive so that appropriate infection control precautions can be put in place to stop the spread of the infection.

People generally develop symptoms 7-18 days after being exposed to a person with infectious measles, with 10 days being more common. People are infectious from 4 days before they develop a rash until 4 days after.

The virus is spread from an infectious person during coughing and sneezing or through direct contact with secretions from the nose or mouth.

Whenever a case of measles is identified in our community, it is a strong reminder that the best way to protect yourself and your family against measles is vaccination.

Two doses of Measles Mumps Rubella vaccine (MMR) are required for immunity against measles and are given to children in Australia at 12 and 18 months of age. However, the vaccine can be given at any age after 9 months.

With many travelling over the holiday period in the next few weeks, we are encouraging people to check their immunisation status and get up to date if needed before travelling.

For further information about measles, visit the ACT Health website.