The Sydney Morning Herald from Sydney, New South Wales, Australia on February 18, 1983 · Page 4
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The Sydney Morning Herald from Sydney, New South Wales, Australia · Page 4

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Issue Date:
Friday, February 18, 1983
Page 4
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Page 2 The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday, February 18, 1083 in THE ASH WEDNESDAY DISASTERS- ft i id A town counts its dead . oj.'an(dl its blessings ! By JOHN HAMILTON There is an old hymn which begins "There is a green hill, far away, without a city wall; Where our dear Lord was crucified, who died to save us all." In Greenhill, South Australia, yesterday, they were counting those who died trying to save their lives, their families and their homes, "The lady next door was killed" said Mrs Dianne Dottore in a culm voice, and then two down a mother and her oauehter were killed and there's another one badlv burnt. "And tbn the man next door to them was killed. He ran out of his home with his clothes on fire and they rolled him over and over trying to put him out. But he died. "Then there's the three people who died in the cars on the Green-hill Road. Mrs Dottore and her mother Mrs Aileen Sloper, were searching the ashes and charred beams of Number 154 Yarrabec Road, Greenhill. They had salvaged six plates, one cup, and two saucepans with melted handles. For 500 metres from their house the scene was one of appalling devastation. I counted 19 houses out of a line of 30 totally destroyed houses that simply blew up when a wind blew through south-cast Australia on Ash Wednesday. Grechill is no more. It is now :i blackened, seared ridge that looks as if it has been attacked by flume throwers and heavy artillery. Around it, the Adelaide Hills are silent. There are no birds alive to sing. The only live thing I saw yesterday afternoon was one brown bul- Fortune in art and history lost forever The South Australian bush-fires destroyed a wealth of Australian history and art treasures. A $500,000 art collection was destroyed at Mount Osmond when a $300,000 mansion burned. In the Adelaide Hills, the famous Eagie-on-the-Hill Hotel went up in flames. The scenic hotel at Norton Summit and the historic home, Eurilln, on Mount Lofty Summit Road, were destroyed. Firemen also battled mostly unsuccessfully, to save antiques from the National Trust classified Wolta Wolta homestead at Clare as the fire ripped through other houses towards the towns of Sevenhills and Mintaro. The 112-year-old Wolta Wolta home was run as a museum and contained antiques, including items 300 years old, valued at more than $300,000. Less than a tenth of the house's contents were saved. Only two out of 30 paintings, some valued at $20,000, were snved. About 10 houses were also dc. strayed in the historic South Australian village of Paechtown, just south of Hahndorf. Among them were three of the only four remaining 140-year-old German settlers' cottages. The $500,000 art collection destroyed at Mount Osmond belonged to an Adelaide physiotherapist, Mr Geoffrey Maitland. The collection had been due to be moved soon to an art gallery. As well as paintings, the items destroyed included a seventeeth century French clock valued at $50,000, a priceless Russian icon and Persian carpets worth $100,000. Weary firefighters keep a sad vigil Squads of firefighters toured the ash-blackened slopes of the Adelaide Hills today damping the still threatening hot-spots. At Country Fire Service depots throughout the Hills hundreds of weary volunteers sat ready in their trucks in case of a new major outbreak. But for most of the people in the region, life quickly began to return to normal. In houses where the black mark of fire stopped only metres away from the walls, a quiet normality replaced yesterday's frantic battles. In the fields, farmers were already beginning to build new fences alongside the still-smouldering stumps of the old. But the memory of yesterday's horror is as strong as the smell of smoke on the wind. "It was unreal. A horrifying sieht," said a CFS officer, Mr Darryl Crouch. Mr Crouch, officer in charge of the CFS depot at untouched Al-dgate. was in the front line of the fire fight on Mount Lofty. "It's the worst I've seen in my many years of fire-fighting," Mr Crouch said. "It's the first time I've had to say, 'Sorry love, it's gone too far. We'll have to move on to houses we can save'." Mr Crouch said crews at the fire sights today were simply damping down the perimeters. The Queen, has sent a telegram to the Governor-General, Sir Nin-ian Stephen, expressing her shock and distress at the bushfires and their "sad toll" in lives and property. Mrs Thatcher has sent a message of sympathy to Mr Frascr telling him lie only need ask for any aid that Britain can oiler and it will be provided. terfly lurching around the blue smoke trails rising up from still smouldering tree trunks. The Hans Heyscn landscape of gums and trotting sheep has been turned into a black desert where feet sink into soft grey troughs of ash and the only sound is shrivelled leaves rattling like bones in the wind. Mrs Dottore and those who lived in Yarrabee Road, Greenhill, just think they are lucky to be alive today. At Number 139, Mrs Helen Candlelt said she was doubly blessed. Her house was saved and also her 80-year-old mother, Mrs Kay Molyneaux. "When the house next door exploded, I said to mother 'We must get out.' l'Wc were going down the garden path when a suitcase burst open and all our clothes were strewn around and we were trying to get them back in the suitcase when there was a roaring sound and there were flames and the house opposite exploded too." Somehow Mrs Candlctt and her mother survived. They survived to perform a sad task yesterday morning. Last Monday Mr Molyneaux died and his funeral was yesterday morning. At Number 136, bearded John Ph i ll is was mechanically sweeping Bushfires had burnt 25 per cent, or 16,000 hectares, of the planted forests in south-eastern South Australia, the State Minister for Forests, Mr Brian Chatterton, said yesterday. Another 4,000 hectares had been lost in the Adelaide Hills area. "Kuitpo Forest has pretty well gone." he said. All but 400 hectares of the Mt Burr Forest had been burnt out and the Penola Forest was badly affected. Mr' Chatterton said that in addition to the fire damage, many young plantings had been damaged by the winds. The Victorian Minister for Agriculture, Mr F.ric Kent,, said 125,000 hectares of rich agriculture land had been damaged. He said 750 farms and properties were affected. Stock losses in Victoria were 13,500 sheep, 6,600 head of cattle and more than 35 horses. More than 500 poultry from one battery farm were killed. A spokesman for the Victorian Farmers' and Graziers' Association said 750 farms and properties were dairy farms in the south-western area between Colac and Warrnam-bool. He said a considerable number of farms had been burnt out. Farmers, in many cases, had tried to save their stock rather than property. "I know of one farmer whose house burnt to the ground while he, his family and some of his stock sheltered in a milking shed, which was saved because it was surrounded by a large area of concrete. He said there would be an immediate need to cart fodder and water to stock which had survived. Tree stumps and undergrowth still smoudering in tho middle of blackened fields were being ignored. "There's no more damage they can do," he said. "It's burnt itself out." The Adelaide Hills are full of stories of lucky escapes. Towns like Aldgate and Stirling escaped completely, while nearby Mylor was hit in what has become almost an annual disaster. Houses were left in a green oasis while their neighbours face blackened ruins, A house still being built on the slopes of Mount Lofty for Adelaide resident Elizabeth Gore had one scorch mark beneath a window. Otherwise, it was untouched within a circle of blackened trees. "No one we know lost their houses around her," Elizabeth said. "We were all very lucky." She was stranded in Adelaide throughout the fire because she was unable to get past road blocks on the main roads into the Hills, but she said her father had been spraying her hobse with water from about nine o'clock in the morning and that had saved it. In other parts of Mount Lofty, about the only things not destroyed by the fire were the bright red signs reading Total Fire Ban. the driveway: of his home with a broom. "I'm not really achieving anything, just filling in the time," he said. With him was his wife Susan. On Ash Wednesday Susan and their five children were at home. John . was half-ah-hour's drive away in Adelaide.. When he learnt that the hills were ablaze, he caught a taxi home. At the same time, Mrs Phillis's sister set out on a rescue mission. "When my sister arrived the windows were being pelted with flving cinders. And I could see the cords holding the rolled up canvas blinds just catching alight spontaneously," said Susan. Her sister took off with the children. Twenty minutes later John Phillis joined his wife. For Si hours they did not know whether Susan's sister and the children had reached safety before the -fire reached Greenhill. "When we eventually reached Melaide I said to the kids, We're so glad to see you1 and the eldest ' looked up, puzzled and said, 'Why'." Somehow the Phillis home at Number 136 was spared, although the house next door was razed to a twisted mesh of iron and bricks. The heat from the fire was so fierce that plastic pipes on the outside of Number 136 melted like limp spaghetti and the stag-horns on the veranda cooked dull brown. There is a For Sale sign outside Mmber 136. It was there before the fire wiped out Greenhill. "I don't know if the market ' would be particularly strong here now." said John Phillis, bravely joking. ' He went back to sweeping the cinders from his driveway and as I walked back up Yarrabee Road, the words of the old hymn came back to me. The huge cost of starting again The bushfire tragedy has posed major financial problems for the tlijee-month-old Labor State Government, which, is already facing a deficit of about $60 million. ' However, It has given the Government a chance to plan a possible major restructuring of the forest industry, devastated by the fires. The Premier, Mr Bannon, said last night that the Prime Minister had agreed that aid for SA should Co beyond the normal relief measures. Existing disaster relief agreements already provided for a three-for-one subsidy by the Federal Government for State Government disaster relief projects,,. It would take about two weeks before a clearer assessment of damage could be made, but it was clear the State Government would need extra resources or special loans from the Federal Government. "We have to set extra resources and grants or loans from the Commonwealth because the size of the task is too great to be handled by SA alone," he said. "We just haven't got the money to fund massive investment, "I've taken the view that while obviously we. 'can't be open-ended about it, we have to address ourselves immediately to the measures needed to restore the assets lost.'' Mr Fraser said before a briefing in Adelaide that it was the first time both States had exploded in fire together and was a major disaster for people and in a material sense. Mr Bannon said: "Public assets such as schools, local government assets and community halls are covered by the natural disaster relief arrangements, but we believe there should be seme extra allowance made because their replacement cost is very heavy. "We're working In the dark at the moment. We just do not havi enough detailed information to do any costing." Mr Bannon, who inspected the Adelaide Hills fire zone at 6 am yesterday and again with Mr Fraser in the afternoon, said the loss ot life and property throughout the State bad been staggering. Ho would visit the south-east today to tour the fire areas and get first-hand reports on the damage, Mr Bannon said one priority for the Government was extra resources to enable it to launch a salvage operation to recover as much timber as possible in the State's forests before It began to deteriorate with the winter, "We have to salvage as much timber as possible, treat and stockpile it before winter," he said, "We're preparing a detailed paper for the Commonwealth on this as a matter of some urgency," Mr Bannon said the destruction in the forests opened the way for a major reafforestation program, which would tie in with the job proposals outlined in Mr Fraser's policy. In the south-east, the State Government was examining proposals for a major reconstruction of the industry in the area. "This destruction may have provided us with an opportunity to really reassess the whole work base there and just what's needed to be done to set it on a linn footing," he said. - 4M A woman When the campaign had to stop . . . From Page 1 Mr Hawke decided that it would not be proper to campaign in the face of such a tragedy, and that a review of plans should be made this morning. When Mr Hogg called Mr Cain at 6 am it was confirmed that the disaster had grown to staggering proportions overnight. The Queensland trip was cancelled in favour of a trip to Melbourne. In Adelaide, the Prime Minister announced . the Commonwealth would match the State - Government's decision to give $200,000 to a public appeal for fire victims. Victoria will get $400,000. He then saw Mr Bannon and gave the Premier a specific proposal for Commonwealth financial assistance to help restore the forests destroyed by the fire. And they discussed the timing of payment of national disaster relief funds an arrangement under which the Commonwealth provides S3 for each SI from the State. The Prime Minister was then rushed off to see at close hand the ruins in the Adelaide Hills. Later he flew over the area All this was captured by radio and television, with Mr Fraser seen talking to victims and expressing very obvious concern. Then off to Mount Gambier where he switched over to another helicopter to fly over the fire-de-stroyed areas of Victoria and visit the three towns in Wannon, his electorate, that had been devastated. Mr Fraser's venture into the fire-ravaged areas of South Australia and Victoria cost a one-day election sortie into Tasmania. The Prime Minister's clear message throughout the day was that his visits were not for political purposes but politically Mr Fraser had no choice but to visit the two States. And yesterday's tour through the 'It appeared that the The loss of life and property make Wednesday's fires one of the worst Australian disasters. But bushfires in Victoria in January, 1939, claimed 71 ii-,ei. The scene was described later by the Royal Commissioner into the fires, Judge L. E. B. Stretton: "Townships were obliterated in a few minutes. Mills, houses, ridges, tramways, machinery, were burnt to the ground; men, cattle, horses, was incinerated in this Greenhill Sixtv-four-vear-old Peter Gaskell bv the house he fought, in vain to save. ,.'tS:4 , .' V- &y t f - The Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, offers words of encouragement to two tired firefighters in Greenhill. They were on their way from one fire to yet another. fire ravaged areas of South Australia and Victoria can only reinforce in the electorate's mind that Mr Fraser is the incumbent Prime Minister something worth a significant number of votes in next month's Federal election. . For Bob Hawke's camp there was great concern that Mr Hawke should not be seen to be acting in a political way by flying to the devastated areas. Mr Hawke appeared on early morning television where, on a normal day, the topic would have sheep were devoured by the fires ... it appeared that the whole State was alight." Victoria has suffered from life-threatening bushfires more than any State. In the summer of 1943-44, 51 people died in fires; in January, 1969, 18 people died at Lara, near Geelong; and in 1977, five people died in the Western District. Tasmania suffered one of the nation's worst fires on February 8, 1967. V i .1.- v" 1 , M I house. Her two children died been the ALP election policy-announced on Wednesday. But he refused to talk about such issues at a time of national tragedy. Instead, after a morning in Sydney trying to learn the details of what was happening in Victoria and South Australia, he left for Melbourne about 1.30 pm. He said as he left that he appreciated what the Prime Minister was doing and that any decision in terms of assistance to people would of course bo honoured by a Labor Government. whole State Flames leaping from tree to tree at up to 80 kmh swept down from Mt Wellington to within two kilometres of the centre of Hobart, killing 62 people and destroying 1,000 homes. In NSW, bushfires have caused great amounts of damage but the death toll has never been as great as inothcr States. The Granville train disaster bn-January 18, 1977, claimed 83 lives and many injured. Cyclone Tracy, which hit Dar ... t x S in the car. --7T9 "It's not a time for politicking today," he said. "It's a time of great sorrow for all Australians." A suggestion that Mr Hawke go to an evacuation centre at Berwick in the foothills of the Dandenongs was rejected for the reasons Mr Hawke had given earlier Instead he decided to go on the Don Lane Show on the Nine network, during an appeal for relief funds. Mr Fraser also appeared on the show (but at a different time) to describe the destruction he had seen. The show had raised more than $1.1 million by midnight. was alight' win on Christmas Day, 1974, left 49 dead and 16 missing at sea with the city devastated. The damage amounted to more than $300 million. The ' Westgate Bridge in Melbourne collapsed, killing 34 workers on October 15, 1970, and a span of the Tasman Bridge, in Hobart, was knocked down by the zinc ore carrier Lake Illawarra, leaving nine dead, in 1975. The Bulli mine disaster killed 81 men on March 23, 1887. Sombre toll of death begins OFFICIALS have issued the i names of 17 of the 25 people Who died in South Australia's bushfires. Of the 12 who died near Adelaide, four names have been released. Melbourne police said last night the list of dead in Victoria . Ik unlikely to be made public before-,,, today. ' " Those named in South AtistWlii"'1 are: ' i wur Margaret Elizabeth Williams, 32. of Kalangadoo, and her four children David James, 2; Penelope Jane, 3; Joanne Elizabeth. -5;' and' ' Robert John, 7. The family v was'.' trapped in a car near the town. , . -L " s Martin Rogers, 87, and GaVroi"r Francis Rogers, 26, of Kalangadoo, who were burnt near a housevout-side the town. " Andrew Lemke, 74. of Lucindalei;,."i Paul John O'Leary, 25, of St Bernard's Road, Magill; - Brjajr: Norsworthy, 52, of Ingemar.'tjalliiw. . dale Road, Lucindalc. The three men were using a grader to .make firebreaks near Lucindale. . ' ; . ... , Lawrence Wallace, about 10, of Mission Road. Hatherleigh, nqftligf, : Millicent. , Stephanie Margaret Prance, early 20s, of Millicent, who was trappecL,. in a car at the Penola Road turn-off ..' in Furner. - - ; Gordon Lewis . Ey, 74, ' df Kalangadoo, who was inefneraticvih'.' a house near the town. -...'. --'" Police have named four of fife ll who died near Adelaide: ; ; ' Patricia Isabelle May, 56,-'of Yarrabec Road, Greenhillr ' Be'tty Jean Coventy, 4S. of Edward's Hill ' Road, Lenswood; Harold William ' Hawthorn, 68, of Hawthorndene Road, Mylor; Eric Norman Pf(tner-76, of Godfrey Street, Erindale.' ' The names of the remaining eight-, will not be issued until relatives an ! told. THE DEVASTATION from the Cockatoo-BeaconsHcId Upper fire v was equivalent to the blast of a J small atomic bomb, a fire manage-., ment expert said yesterday. - . Professor lan Ferguson, of Mel- bourne University's forestry depart-. ment, said a fire like the Cockatoo" blaze was about 30 times ni0re '', intense than a normal bushfire. "A conu-ollable bushfire can be ' measured at about 2,000 kilowatts , of heat energy per metre. These ? latest fires would be around 60,000 kilowatts per metre. "There would be definite simi- J . larities with the bomb dropped on v Hiroshima," he said. ('.. i -1'.; AUSTRALIAN offices tbroucMut'I' ,i Britain have been inundated' rith -calls from concerned friends 'and". relatives of people thought to be i in danger from the bushfires. Australia House in LondofJ8a)iJ set up a special group to take calls. The situation was not helped by v broadcasts in Scotland which sai6 Adelaide was burning, a spokesman said. Australia House was tryincv to correct misunderstanding; .and ' pacify people in distress. COLIN BARTON, 64, 'refused to leave his timber cottage at Fairhaven as the fire approachediJ Inspector Joe Flynn said yestc day that Mr Barton had told th't" police: "It's my house aniL. jf it burns, I will burn with it.".- ' Mr Barton's body was; fpund J yesterday in the charred ranaaint" of his bathroom. ., " Mr Barton's daughter "Haw pleaded with her father to leave when she moved out with her children on Wednesday night. Inspector Flynn said the house was destroyed by the fire. . f Mr Barton was one of ilirejft" who perished in the Otways fir The others were a motorist who died at Urquharts Bluff, and 4,1 Telecom worker who was fona dead in the bush near' Deadf Marsh. iavfcj count nave been . saved-if off-duty suburban firefighters-' had been called in to battle blazes'"" in outlying areas of Melbourne, - uie iimigmcrs union ciuimca yesterday. The State secretary of the unuea rircngniers union, m,r Frank Churchill, said he had been :' plagued with calls yesterday front . . irate members wanting to ' know' how they could help. "Up to 1,000 trained men'cbiild.. ' have been called upon in the' past' ; two days. There should have beetCr'T hiuic uac lliauv in iiiciiuMUllltlM appliances ana equipment, ne saiO..,,. "Our members are champing at.'.,: mc on 10 ncip. .. Mr Churchill said he' .had,- informed the State Government - ...... .... ....... ...... . ...w . p. uun. dul me uucsiion 01 wneuiur-.-. lives could have been saved Wouh. '. AFTER a horrifying night in the '' middle of a holocaust, 14-year-oloT -Therese Shepherd (above) could-np, : longer hold back her emotions.' As she stepped from the bus info ' the arms of relief workers at'Bcr-' wick, 40 kilometres south-east" Of Melbourne, Theresa burst into tear': She was among 64 children on a school camp trapped by a blaze that swept through the Gembrook area on Wednesday night. ' I l 1 I" I I . .... i tin XJL L-v . - t J "'

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