Bushfires along one of Melbourne’s biggest tourist attractions, the Great Ocean Road, have destroyed at least 116 homes in the worst bushfires that have hit Victoria since Black Saturday in 2009.
The blazes which continued through Christmas and Boxing Day, destroyed 98 homes in Wye River while another 18 were burned down in Separation Creek — both popular seaside destinations for tourists.
Around 500 firefighters have been tending to the fires which have spanned more than 2,200-hectares since it was sparked by a lightning strike the previous weekend.
The Country Fire Authority (CFA) has downgraded fire warnings to a “Watch and Act” in Wye River and Separation Creek as well as the town of Lorne — where many were forced to evacuate for Torquay on Friday evening but later allowed to return on Saturday morning after overnight rain eased the fires.
— Tom Jacobs (@TomPJacobs) December 25, 2015
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has since announced government grants of $1,300 to those affected by the bushfires, who have lost their homes or are unable to return.
He described the property losses as “volatile” and “intense” during a community meeting in Apollo Bay and urged visitors in the affected areas to take caution.
The insurance losses stemming from the bushfires are around $38 million with that number said to increase as claims continue to roll in, the Insurance Council of Australia estimates.
The fires have also affected one of the largest festivals in Victoria with the Falls Music and Arts Festival, a four-day camping festival which attracts more than 15,000 people, being relocated from Lorne to Mount Duneed Estate near Geelong.
“It’s been an exceptionally dry year with the El Nino event, and the worst fire conditions will probably be seen in January and February, and that’s why we’re working really hard to consolidate this fire now,” deputy incident controller Mark Gunning told AAP.
So far, there have been no reported fatalities.
The fires are expected to continue into the new year with the possibility of burning until January or February.
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