More than 100 homes have been lost in an out-of-control fire still burning on Victoria’s surf coast.
Firefighters have conducted an extensive search of Wye River and Separation Creek on Saturday, where all of the homes were lost.
Country Fire Authority deputy incident controller Mark Gunning said 116 houses have been destroyed in the 2200-hectare Jamieson Track blaze.
“That will probably be the final number, as we’ve just completed an extensive search,” Mr Gunning told AAP on Saturday.
On Friday, authorities feared the intense blaze would also raze homes in Kennett River and possibly reach Victoria’s major tourist spot, Lorne.However, the fire stopped just 500 metres short of Kennett River.
Residents and holidaymakers were told it was safe to return to Lorne shortly after 9am on Saturday after spending most of Friday evening evacuating the area.Although the CFA has downgraded the fire warning to a watch and act in Lorne, Mr Gunning said the fire was still out-of-control and people needed to remain vigilant.
Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the blaze was intense though not large, and had been pushed along by strong winds.It could continue burning until January or February because a dousing of rain on Saturday was unlikely to do much in the long term once the state began to dry out.
The Victorian and Commonwealth governments confirmed on Saturday households hit by the fires would be abe to apply for up to $!300 in immediate natural disaster relief, and $32,500 in re-establishment payments.
Premier Daniel Andrews praised the effort of emergency services who had been battling the blaze, as well as people who had opened up their homes.’
This is one of those times when the very worst of circumstances brings out the very best in our state,’ he said.The road to Lorne is open, but it will be closed south for days.
The Insurance Council of Australia on Saturday declared the bushfires a catastrophe, estimating initial insurance losses of $25 million.