10 February 2009© InfoAs bushfires rage across large parts of Victoria, Australia, the British Red Cross has launched the Australian Bushfires Appeal to help thousands of people left homeless.
Over 160 people have died, with the number expected to increase as authorities access more homes and discover vehicles in which people attempted to escape the fires. Many homes are also still at risk.
The Australian Red Cross is working day and night to help victims of the bushfires and money raised will support their response.
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Red Cross support
Australian Red Cross chief executive, Robert Tickner, said: "We are seeing devastation on a massive scale and we still don't know the full extent of it.
"We are continuing to see physically and emotionally exhausted people arriving at our relief centres and are expecting more to arrive over the next few days."
Red Cross staff and volunteers are working at 20 relief centres to support those who have fled their burning homes.
They are providing meals for firefighters, police, and people in the relief centres. First aid volunteers are assisting emergency services personnel and other affected people by treating mainly fire-related injuries like minor burns and smoke inhalation.
Red Cross personal support volunteers are also providing practical assistance to evacuees, as well as emotional support, information and referrals to recovery services.
Adam Dent, Australian Red Cross state manager for emergency services, said hundreds of concerned people had called the Red Cross operated State Inquiry Centre for news of loved ones caught up in the fires, and thousands more had registered their details.
“We're not sure of the final impact as many of the fires are still burning,” said Adam, “but we know that people need our help now, and they will continue to need it for some time yet.”
The British Red Cross is collecting funds for the Australian Red Cross to support the Victorian Bushfire Appeal 2009.
The 2009 Victorian Bushfire Fund to assist individuals and communities affected by devastating bushfires in Victoria has been launched by the Premier John Brumby in partnership with Red Cross and the federal government.
Donations will be used to provide assistance to individuals and communities in towns and suburbs affected by the bushfires. An independent panel made up of community leaders will oversee the appeal funds operation.
More about the Australian Bushfires Appeal
Contacting family in Australia