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Australian Bushfires Appeal 2009

In February 2009 Australia endured the worst bushfire in recorded history, as relentless fires swept across the southern state of Victoria, almost decimating two country towns and causing widespread damage.

Authorities and residents were on stand-by for a hot, windy day, with temperatures expected to exceed 45 degrees and winds around 80 kilometres per hour. But nothing could prepare them for the speed and ferocity of the approaching fires.

Thousands of people were left homeless by the fires and the BBC reported police estimate 173 people were killed.

How we helped

A woman and four men© InfoThe British Red Cross launched an appeal to provide emergency aid and thanks to the generosity of the public £402,000 was raised. The Australian Red Cross worked day and night to help victims of the bushfires and money raised supported their response.

Red Cross staff and volunteers worked at 20 relief centres to support those who fled their burning homes.They served tens of thousands of meals to firefighters, police, and people in the relief centres. First aid volunteers treated 4,500 people, mostly for fire related injuries like burns and smoke inhalation.

Red Cross personal support volunteers helped and comforted evacuees, giving them information and referrals to recovery services.

The Red Cross also responded to the badly hit Kinglake area with medical supplies and food for a community who had been cut off by the fires. A Red Cross team accompanied residents returning to the Whittlesea area to offer personal and emotional support during a difficult time.

Adam Dent, state manager for emergency services at the Australian Red Cross, said hundreds of concerned people had called the Red Cross for news of loved ones caught up in the fires, and thousands more had registered their details.

Last updated March 2009

The people we helped

Albin Weitacher lived on his own on eight acres of land, until a hot wind changed everything. Once he reached the relief centre, he received first aid from the Red Cross.

After watching his house burn to the ground, Michael O’Meara and his family spent a night under wet blankets in a paddock.

During the Australian bushfires, Phyllis spent two nights in a car before she reached the relief centre in Whittlesea.