Queensland bushfire crisis escalates at Eungella and Broken River in state’s north

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Updated

November 30, 2018 21:22:31

Residents in the path of a large fire in north Queensland have been urged to seek shelter immediately as conditions worsened rapidly late on Friday afternoon.

Key points:

  • Authorities warn the fire approaching Broken River could have ‘life-threatening impact’
  • The two men arrested over alleged arson are not connected to the Stanwell emergency, police say
  • Frustrations are growing among people evacuated from fire zones who are not allowed back to their homes

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) said shortly before dark it was too late for residents of Broken River, west of Mackay, to leave the area.

QFES warned the fire threatened to have “a life-threatening impact on the community”.

“Conditions are now very dangerous and firefighters are unable to prevent the fire advancing,” a QFES spokesperson said.

“The fire poses a threat to all lives directly in its path. Fire crews may not be able to protect your property.”

QFES warned power, water, and mobile phone services may soon be lost and driving would be “extremely dangerous”.

Residents who had left nearby Dalrymple Heights for Eungella were urged to return home and seek shelter as it was unsafe to travel.

Just before dusk, a CQ Rescue helicopter evacuated a group of women and children from Eungella, and delivered them to nearby Finch Hatton.

Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson said the situation had escalated quickly, but that there were 30 to 40 people who had not left the area.

“It’s turned into quite a grim situation, there is a fear that we will lose buildings in the area,” he said.

“The fire is roaring up to the ramp at Eungella, it’s turned quite grim quite fast this afternoon and it just shows how these things, how dynamic they are, and this fire that’s been escalating for the last couple of days has just turned nasty on us.”

A 737 water bomber was sent to Eungella on Friday afternoon to slow the fire’s advance.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the situation was “unfolding”.

“People are safe, they are in the community centre,” she said.

“We have equipment and appliances there, we have some aerial water bombing taking place.”

State disaster coordinator Bob Gee urged people in the Eungella area to listen to advice from authorities.

“It’s a rapidly changing environment, but we have rapidly changing attack plans,” he said.

Fires have been burning in the region for days and the warning includes the Finch Hatton, Eungella, and Crediton areas.

QFES Commissioner Katarina Carroll said as of Friday evening there were still 113 fires burning across the state.

“The heatwave is still continuing, the sea breezes are coming in the next couple of days which will present obviously further challenges.”

“The message from all of us really is, please don’t be complacent.”

Two men arrested for arson

The latest emergency comes after two men were arrested for arson as authorities continue to battle extreme conditions and more than 114 fires across the state.

Mr Gee said police arrested a 26-year-old man on Thursday for attempting to light a fire in Rockhampton.

He said the fire was not connected to the nearby blaze at Stanwell that prompted the mass evacuation of Gracemere, south of Rockhampton, on Wednesday.

This afternoon, police then arrested a 27-year-old man for arson over a fire at Port Curtis, east of Gracemere.

Mr Gee described the offences as “incredibly serious”.

“Now, both of these incidents, the offenders were arrested very, very quickly, due to the public coming forward,” he said.

“I’ve got to stress the point that neither of these incidences are related to the Stanwell fire.

“Both resulting fires were small and both were put out quickly and, indeed, the arrests were also made soon after the alleged offences were reported.

“If you commit these sorts of offences in this environment where police and the public and the community are working together, the chances of you being caught are very, very, very high.”

Frustration grows for hundreds of people

The arrests come as Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced this afternoon the creation of the Queensland Bushfire Appeal, to which she committed $125,000 in state funding.

“We need to help people. Organisations such as Give It, the Salvation Army, Lifeline and others are going to partner with us, so, please, I need Queenslanders to dig deep,” she said.

Speaking in the town of Miriam Vale, Ms Palaszczuk also called for patience from people displaced from the Deepwater fire zone south of Gladstone, as frustration grows for hundreds of people not yet allowed to return home.

“It is deeply distressing … we’re going to make sure that the residents here can come to Miriam Vale and twice a day get regular updates,” the Premier said.

“We’re going to see if one of the firefighters who have been out on the field on their way home can just drop in and talk about what they’ve been dealing with.”

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Katarina Carroll pleaded with people in the fire zones to “please bear with us”.

She said it was not yet clear when people with homes inside the Deepwater fire zone would be allowed to return to their properties.

“We have experienced what is the unimaginable — catastrophic conditions have never, ever been experienced in this state, and it has certainly been a challenging time,” Commissioner Carroll said.

“It may not be the fact that you will be going home today or tomorrow, but you need to know what is happening, and when those decisions may come closer.”

Topics:

arson,

bushfire,

emergency-incidents,

charities-and-community-organisations,

rockhampton-4700,

brisbane-4000,

qld

First posted

November 30, 2018 15:40:05





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