THE road into Kinglake will remain closed because trees were still falling, bodies had not yet been recovered from burnt-out cars and the town was not ready to cope with the return of 1000 evacuees who would be traumatised by what they found, angry residents were told at a community meeting yesterday.
“The roads will be closed until bodies are recovered, the roads are safe to travel and until we are ready and able to support our families and friends when they do return,” community-building facilitator for Kinglake Anne Leadbeater said.
“Does anybody have a view on that?”
The crowd roared and one person called out, “EVERYbody has a problem with that!”
Mrs Leadbeater replied: “We don’t have anywhere for them to sleep, we don’t have enough ways to feed them and we don’t have enough people here to support their emotional needs. I will go down and lie on that road rather than have these people come up here and not be supported.”
She told the crowd they were remarkable and that they would need to draw on their strength in coming days: “If we think it’s bad now, when our families and friends get back up here its going to be much, much worse. We have seen what happened and we can take strength that we are still here.
“One thousand people who live in this area haven’t seen what we’ve seen. We need to steel ourselves for when they come back, and it’s going to be a job and a half. If we get hung up on details it will sink this ship.”
Mrs Leadbeater said she and her husband had fought the fire as their family sheltered inside their home: “Every single emotion you are feeling I am sharing. I want for you what you want.”
Residents have been told they are allowed to leave the town but that those who left would not be allowed back until the roads were reopened. Many were frustrated that family and supplies were out of their reach unless they chose to become temporary refugees.
The Kinglake death toll is expected to rise. More police reinforcements arrived yesterday to section off the town and search it sector by sector for missing people. Search and rescue dogs were brought in.
Trying to calm anger over the road closure, police officer Sergeant Jon Ellks asked for patience: “Every single day we are going to a different place and you all know what we are finding. It’s still going on.”
The mountain is still without power. A fuel tanker arrived with 8000 litres each of diesel and unleaded petrol for cars and generators.
Officials from the Department of Human Services and Centrelink arrived to provide emergency funding but residents who had been issued cheques pointed out there was no way to cash them.
Country Fire Authority workers were yesterday trying to quell two small fires close to town and deal with smouldering timber. While clouds of smoke were drifting from roots, logs and mulch in some areas, the acrid smell of burn finally began to clear from the air.
Stray animals are being evacuated but carcasses cannot be removed yet.First published in The Age.