Vulnerable residents are advised against returning to the Victorian town of Morwell, despite a fire in a nearby mine being brought under control.
A mine fire that blanketed the Victorian town of Morwell in smoke is finally under control but vulnerable residents are advised against returning.
The Hazelwood mine fire has burnt for more than a month, leaving air quality so poor vulnerable residents were advised to flee.
On Monday, Victorian Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley declared the blaze under control but said it won’t be out until significant rain falls.
“There will continue to be some smoke coming out of the open cut periodically over the next few days and that could extend for at least a week or until at least we get good rains,” he told reporters in Hazelwood.
“To move from controlled to safe we need rain.”
Chief Health Officer Rosemary Lester said an inversion was trapping smoke in Morwell on Monday and the vulnerable should stay away.
“Hence my advice that temporary relocation should still be considered; that advice stands,” she said.
“We are not able to lift that advice at the moment.”
People over 65 years, preschool-aged children, pregnant women and anyone with a pre-existing heart or lung condition were advised late last month to temporarily relocate out of Morwell South, the area close to the mine.
Dr Lester said people had applied for almost 600 relocation grants, while about 1300 grants were made for temporary respite.
As focus turns to the clean up and inquiries into what could have been done differently, Dr Lester admitted there were communication failings during the smoke crisis.
“I think it is clear that we haven’t communicated our message to everybody as well as we might have,” she said.
“I think we do need to make sure that we are in the 21st century and take advantage of every communication mechanism that we can.”
Mr Lapsley said the fire would change the way brown coal fires are fought, in particular those close to communities.
“We would be foolish not to pick up the learnings of this and take it to the next generation of how we deal with these,” he said.