Rapid Relief Team got the urgent call to attend the relief centre at Bairnsdale City Oval on New Year’s Day to help provide meals to the many East Gippslanders who had no where else to go.
The team quickly assembled on site and within three hours from call up it was feeding people with warm meals, coffee and cold drinks.
This all changed last Tuesday afternoon when the team was requested to urgently get to Buchan as it had been cut off from communication the town urgently needed food and water.
“Two hours later our team was packed up with supplies and heading up with a police escort, using the roads that were closed off to everyone except emergency services,” Rapid Relief Team (RRT) team leader, Simon Cox, said.
“The trip was slow and confronting as the team travelled over roads that still had large amounts of debris and past many homes and landmark areas totally destroyed by the fire.
“Arriving in Buchan was bizarre and eerie in itself – with no power there were no lights, no noise and no reception on phones to call anyone. The night came quickly and the smoke haze was thick and choking.
“Setting up our trailers and tents on Wednesday morning, we were wondering if the whole town had evacuated.
“We began cooking breakfast and pouring coffees and slowly the town woke up with many of the residents spending the night in their vehicles as they had no place else to stay.”
Word began to spread about the warm food and coffee being served and the RRT team began to realise the enormity of what had happened to the people of Buchan unique and fascinating accounts of survival, of great loss and devastation, stories about those who were missing and being unable to contact loved ones.
“The Buchan oval became the centre reference point in town, a place where locals could relax and process what had happened, and share their stories with those that listened,” Simon said.
RRT’s values of community, compassion and support were fully on display with the mission of ‘Supporting Local Communities in Times of need’ never more clearly demonstrated.
“Buchan is still without power, over a week after it was cut off, and the town remains somewhat in limbo until it will be restored,” Simon said.
“The community spirit in Buchan, however, is something that has to be seen to be believed and the way they rally together to help each other is truly inspiring.”
Generous donations of food, supplies and essentials kept flowing in to the team, ensuring meals were still provided, as getting more supplies in quickly was almost impossible.
RRT is still operating in Buchan, now providing meals for CFA, Police and DELWP as well as locals.
IMAGE: The volunteer-run Rapid Relief Team has set up at Buchan Recreation Reserve to provide meals and drink for locals, CFA, Police and DELWP. The team has been supporting the fire ravaged township since New Year’s Day. (PS)