Yarloop – 3 Months On
Greetings from Yarloop,
Thank you once again for the continuing interest in what is happening in Yarloop. It has now been three months and one week since the devastating fires that destroyed a large portion of Yarloop, and sadly, the town still does not look a whole lot different. Since the last update at the beginning of February, the physical appearance of the town remains largely unchanged, though life affirming greenery is growing through the blackened bushland. In fact, the overall look is now of devastation AND neglect. Because most people who have properties still standing have not been able to return to their homes, we now have overgrown gardens and neglected properties to add to the general look of devastation and loss. Even Alcoa has now been denied permission to enter and do any work on its 40+ remaining properties. This is hard on the tenants who stayed in the town as most have damaged yards, destroyed fences, sheds etc… Yarloop prided itself on being a tidy town so it is very hard to see it in its current sad state.
The town is still in full lockdown with only two major roads open to enter or leave, both having manned 24/7 checkpoints and a permit required for residents. Visitors in vehicles are still not allowed in without permission and any visitors to our home have to park across the highway and walk in. This has given rise to a real sense of isolation in the community and feeling a bit like being in an “interment camp”. The authorities would be happier if no one lived in the town but for most remaining, they either have no where else to go or nowhere else they want to go. We remain here at our own risk. The asbestos contamination threat is the biggest reason for lockdown but also for the protection of properties from looting or “souvenir” taking.
A lot has been going on behind the scenes. As has been said, this situation is a first for WA and everyone has been asked to have patience as protocols and structure is put in place. Under the Harvey Shire, every home containing asbestos has been sprayed with a glue mixture to keep particles from becoming airborne. And there are a LOT of houses with asbestos in some form or another! Since the State Government took over the management of the town from the Harvey Shire over a month ago, letters and forms have been sent to every resident, ex-resident or landholder of Yarloop requesting permission for the State Government Cleanup Team to have access to properties for demolition and clearing. These forms also advised any tenant, who want to go through the rubble for any personal items to salvage, to indicate their desire to do so. (They will be required to be kitted out in full protection gear, which would be provided by the authorities). This process has been drawn out a lot longer than was anticipated due to the slow turn around time for many permission forms sent out, or incomplete forms or just no response at all! The town has been divided into blocks for clearing and, until a block has 100% response from tenants, the Government will not commence clearing that area. So a lot of frustration due to how long all this is taking, especially by home owners who want to rebuild.
Some cleanup has commenced, mainly due to the refurbishing of the War Memorial so that an Anzac Day Service can be held in the town. This has meant that the area around the Memorial, and the destroyed Railway Museum/Workshops across the road from it, had to be have the debris either taken away or moved further back from it. Cleaning of a couple of timber houses destroyed near the school has also started.
The first major cleanup process will start with EVERY burnt vehicle in the town being “sealed and wrapped” for removal. (The mind boggles as to how that will be achieved! J) It is believed this is being done because asbestos particles may have blown into the vehicles. The properties will not start to be cleared until all vehicles are gone. Again, a long process. At a residents meeting in Harvey a few weeks ago, it was advised a timetable of about 16 weeks was given for the cleanup to be done. It is my understanding this is already a couple of weeks behind due to the permission forms taking so long to be given over.
So, we wait! Waiting for so much to be put into place before the actual rebuilding of the town can even begin!
The kind donations given so generously by the Churches of Christ in Australia are starting to be distributed. Please note, that most of the funds will be fully utilized once the town starts to rebuild and the tenants, now unable to return, come back to their still standing homes.
However, your donations have already gone to:
- a washing machine for one couple,
- a Bunnings voucher to help a family relocating to a near by town after losing their home in Yarloop,
- a gift of $500 cash to a couple from Harvey Church of Christ who were burnt out for the SECOND time within 3 years
The committee appointed from Harvey Church of Christ to oversee the distribution of the donations is also at this moment following up on a couple of other needs that have been brought to their attention.
Please continue to pray for this little town and its residents. There is a real spirit of determination to rebuild this town but so many hurting people at the moment. Hurting not only for the material losses but the loss of community. Alcoa is not going to rebuild the 40 rental houses that were destroyed by fire. Therefore, 40 families will not be back in the community so neighbours, friends are no longer in the community doing life together. Older folks who have lived here for many, many years are now scattered in surrounding towns. Some are finding it very hard to cope and have been traumatized by all that has happened. The Yarloop Primary School has been located on the Harvey School site in temporary buildings with their own teachers and chaplain. They have gone from a school of around 60 students to approx 35, a big change for them too.
Pray for patience, for the mental health of those doing it tough, for people to support and care for each other, for wisdom for the authorities, for Godly men and women to support and encourage as much as possible, for Yarloop not to be forgotten as the world moves on to the next disaster.
Yours in Christ Jesus,