In the wake of an unprecedented fire emergency across NSW residents across the Kempsey Shire have come together to care for those who have lost everything.
Mayor Liz Campbell, who has been assisting at the evacuation centre operating out of the Kempsey Showground since Saturday said the speed of the community response was incredible.
“In the early hours of Saturday when it became clear that we had lost homes and properties in our Shire we knew there was going to be a huge demand for support.
“Council worked with the other agencies to quickly establish the evacuation centre, in a matter of hours we went from a registration desk at the showground to having to put out a message that we couldn’t take any more donations.
“We were inundated with clothes, personal items, food and bedding. Locals have been there around the clock since Saturday supporting each other, giving their time and coordinating the messages to those remaining west of the road closures on Armidale Road,” said Mayor Campbell.
In the face of worsening conditions Mayor Campbell warns the community fight is far from over.
“Our Emergency Operations Centre and the RFS teams are preparing for the worst over the coming days. At this stage we don’t know the full extent of damage in our Shire.
“We’ve had reports of dozens of homes lost and authorities are working to confirm the extent of damage and locate people on isolated properties. The challenge today is for the RFS to try to get access and preparations made in those areas predicted to be affected tomorrow.
“We are asking the community to be aware of the RFS communications via radio and online, pay attention to the warnings and not put themselves in unnecessary danger,” said Mayor Liz Campbell.
Facts in brief
- Homes have been lost and properties damaged in Willawarrin, Toorooka and into the Bellbrook area. Exact details are unknown due to the size of the area affected.
- The RFS Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) has been in operation consistently since Thursday last week and over the weekend. Council staff are stationed from the Centre at any time that it is stood up.
- Armidale Road, at Mines Road Deep Creek has been closed since Friday (8/11). Police have assisted RFS with road-blocks and providing escorts of emergency supplies and medications into Willawarrin for those who had chosen to stay in the area.
- Residents have been advised to relocate from the area West of Willawarrin. Voluntary evacuation of Bellbrook occurred on Saturday afternoon with two buses and a convoy of cars guided into Kempsey by Police and RFS. A further bus load was escorted from Willawarrin on Monday morning.
- Power was lost to Bellbrook, Willawarrin and the rural properties in this area up the Macleay River on Saturday.
- The power was reinstated at Willawarrin late on Sunday afternoon and some communications has resumed. Attempts are being made to get generators and satellite phones into Bellbrook.
- Council roads and bridges teams have been inspecting infrastructure for damage. They have assessed and cleared trees from roads to make access safe for RFS crews and people leaving the area. Several timber bridges were destroyed or have been declared unsafe for use. This has potential to limit access to properties under threat from the fire front.
- Evacuation centres in Bellbrook and Sherwood were in operation on Friday. Both of those were closed and moved to the Kempsey Showground as the conditions worsened on Friday night and early hours of Saturday. Kempsey Showground is currently the only evacuation centre.
- Council staff have assisted around the clock since Saturday morning at the evacuation centre. Working alongside the welfare teams from Department of Community and Justice, the Salvation Army and Local Land Services.
- More than 350 residents have come through the centre are registered by Community and Justice, they able to access food, supplies and are assisted with accommodation either at the centre or throughout Kempsey. People can then find friends and relatives through the Red Cross Reunite service https://register.redcross.org.au/
- Kempsey Saleyards have been opened as a refuge for livestock since Saturday. Fodder and water is provided to animals registered on arrival at the Saleyards.
Council services affected
- Sale at Kempsey Saleyards scheduled for Tuesday 12 November has been cancelled. Saleyards are still in use as a stock refuge
- Council’s duty planner service for advice on Development Applications or proposals is not available this week
- Inspections will not be available for non-urgent matters this week
- The CRC recycling trailer will not be operating as scheduled this week
- It is expected all waste collection services will be disrupted in coming days
- Due to the hazard presented by the current bushfire emergency, and per Council’s Code of Meeting Practice, the November ordinary meeting of Council will not be held next week