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Bushfire Emergency: Homes Lost as Blaze Intensifies in Western Victoria



Homes have been reported lost as reinforcements start arriving to bolster firefighters battling a large bushfire in western Victoria.

Thousands of residents from more than 30 communities near Ballarat have been told to “leave now,” with emergency warnings and a watch-and-act alert issued.

About 1000 firefighters have been battling the blaze including those operating water bombing aircraft.

Firefighters hoped conditions would abate overnight but they did not, with the blaze moving northeasterly towards Avoca on Friday morning.

The fire had burned through more than 11,000 hectares and spotfires from embers were starting ahead of its main front, a State Control Centre spokeswoman said.

More than 25,000 homes were sent emergency alerts through voice or text messages on Thursday, and around 5500 more went out on Friday morning.

Advice messages for Avoca, Glenbrae and surrounds were in place on Friday but the spokeswoman said leaving immediately was the safest option for locals.

“If people are located within these (warning) areas we’re asking them to leave now to protect their life,” she said.

“We are hearing of property losses but we’ll know more later in the day.”

Livestock were also expected to be lost in the blaze.

Victorian Country Fire Authority chief officer Jason Heffernan said he expected conditions to remain volatile on Friday.

“We are throwing everything we can at it to try and contain the fire in the lead-up to next Wednesday’s predicted high fire weather day,” he told ABC TV early on Friday.

The very large bushfire forced the closure of the Great Western Highway between the major towns of Ballarat and Ararat, in addition to a train line and bus routes in the area.

The aim on Friday was to get the Great Western Highway opened but the Pyrenees highway was set to be closed due to the fire, Mr Heffernan said.

Skipton Road between Skipton and Beaufort was also closed as of Friday morning, as was Beaufort-Lexton Road.

Relief centres were set up at Ararat, Maryborough and Wendouree.

Prisoners with health conditions that make them vulnerable to smoke have been taken away from Langi Kal Kal Prison, which is near the fire.

Smoke near Bayindeen
 The out-of-control fire caused authorities to close the highway between Ballarat and Ararat. Image by HANDOUT/VICEMERGENCY 

Firefighters have also been battling bushfires in parts of Tasmania, with a watch and act warning issued for the Dee community and surrounds over a fire in the remote central highlands, with residents told to prepare to leave.

A high fire danger alert has been issued for parts of central and south western NSW, in addition to the Greater Hunter region.

Hot conditions on Friday are likely to be focused on Northern and Eastern NSW, according to Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Dean Narramore.

He said the mercury was set to reach mid to high 30s in Sydney before widespread thunderstorm activity and a cool change in the evening.

A heatwave warning is current for Western Australia’s Pilbara, North Interior and South Interior Districts and Gascoyne regions.

In WA a bushfire watch and act alert is in place for people travelling along the Eyre Highway near the Balladonia Roadhouse in parts of Balladonia and the Fraser Range in the Shire of Dundas.

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‘Sad and senseless’: public grieve Bondi attack victims



‘Sad and senseless’: public grieve Bondi attack victims

Here’s the latest update on the tragic events at Westfield Bondi Junction in Sydney, where the community has come together to mourn the victims of the recent stabbing attack. The doors of the shopping centre have re-opened, but the atmosphere remains sombre as people pay their respects to the six individuals who lost their lives in the senseless act of violence.

Despite the lack of customers and closed shutters on store fronts, the site has become a place of quiet reflection for many. Hundreds of mourners have visited the shopping centre since the attack, leaving condolences and bouquets on level four where the tragedy occurred. Mothers held their children close, wiping away tears, while others prayed and wore black as a sign of solidarity and mourning.

Local residents Sheira Said and Hazel Stein expressed their feelings of sadness and disbelief at the events that unfolded at Westfield Bondi Junction. Said mentioned feeling the “heavy weight of sadness” as a reminder of how fragile life can be, while Stein empathized with the families who lost their loved ones, acknowledging that the tragedy could have affected anyone.

NSW Premier Chris Minns and Police Commissioner Karen Webb visited the shopping centre to address the media, emphasizing the need for grieving and healing in the community. Minns described the re-opening of the centre as the “first step in healing” and highlighted the unity and support shown by the community during this difficult time.

In response to the attack, Minns indicated that the government would consider stricter knife laws and increased security measures. The state government may also explore implementing laws similar to those in Queensland to allow police officers to conduct searches with metal detectors without a warrant.

As shops prepare to resume trading with heightened security, tenants will have their rent waived for the period of closure, and staff will be provided with mental health support and counseling services. A permanent memorial near the site and a candlelight vigil at a beachside location are being planned to honor the victims of the tragic incident.

The community continues to stand together in solidarity, grieving the loss of those affected by the Bondi attack. The resilience and support shown by both residents and officials reflect a commitment to healing and unity in the face of tragedy.

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How the Beatles Won Australia Over Minus the Razzmatazz



How the Beatles won Australia over minus the razzmatazz

Here’s a look back at how the Beatles captured the hearts of Australian fans during their 1964 tour, without the extravagant stage effects that are common in today’s concerts.

Teenager Sandi Keane vividly remembers the excitement of seeing the Fab Four at Melbourne’s Southern Cross Hotel. The Beatles, in the midst of Beatlemania, were greeted by hundreds of thousands of screaming fans lining the streets from Essendon Airport to the city center.

Despite the overwhelming crowds, the Beatles were thrilled by the reception. They engaged with the fans, with drummer Ringo Starr even joking about his daring entrance into the hotel.

At the Festival Hall concerts a few days later, super fans like Ms. Keane were immersed in the Beatles’ music and energy. The band, representing a new generation of change, played a key role in the cultural shift of the 60s.

While their performance may seem simple by today’s standards, with just their voices and instruments, the impact of the Beatles’ music was undeniable. Songs like “She Loves You” resonated with fans like Ms. Keane, creating a joyous and unforgettable experience.

Now, 60 years later, the Beatles’ Australasian tour is celebrated as a defining moment of Beatlemania. A new book, “When We Was Fab: Inside the Beatles Australasian Tour 1964,” compiled by Greg Armstrong and Andy Neill, captures the essence of that historic moment.

Reflecting on the Beatles’ personalities, Ms. Keane describes Paul McCartney as having a “honey on toast-type voice,” John Lennon’s raspy tones, Ringo Starr’s shyness, and George Harrison’s reserved nature. Despite their fame, the Beatles remained true to themselves.

The Beatles’ ability to captivate audiences with just their music and presence, without the need for elaborate stage effects, is what makes them timeless. Their performance, filled with raw talent and genuine connection, continues to resonate with fans today.

As the Beatles left a lasting impact on Australia during their 1964 tour, their legacy lives on through their music and the memories of fans like Sandi Keane, who experienced the magic of Beatlemania firsthand.

The Beatles’ influence on music and pop culture is undeniable, with their simple yet powerful performances showcasing the true essence of their talent. Despite the passage of time, the Beatles’ music continues to inspire and captivate audiences around the world, proving that sometimes, all you need are four boys in suits and ties to win over a nation.

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Australia briefed on report into killing of aid worker



Australia briefed on report into killing of aid worker

Australia has been briefed by the Israeli military on the investigation into the killing of aid worker Zomi Frankcom. The Israel Defense Forces spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, announced that the investigation into the strike against seven World Central Kitchen aid workers in Gaza has been completed. The report will be made public within 24 hours, and has already been presented to the ambassadors of relevant nations as well as the World Central Kitchen.

Lt Col Lerner expressed regret for the “very grave mistake” of misidentification that led to the tragic death of Zomi Frankcom. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese criticized the deaths as more than just a product of war, and demanded greater accountability from Israel. Cabinet minister Jason Clare also condemned Israel, highlighting the larger issue of almost 200 aid workers being killed so far.

Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley called for answers and understanding regarding the situation, emphasizing the distress caused by the ongoing conflict. Save the Children reported that nearly 26,000 children in Gaza have been killed or injured in the past six months, further illustrating the devastating impact of the conflict on civilians.

World Central Kitchen has called for an independent investigation into the Israeli strike and has urged Australia and other affected countries to join the demand. In a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Joe Biden set conditions for continued US support, emphasizing the need to prevent civilian harm and ensure the safety of aid workers.

Lt Col Lerner stated that individual military members involved in the strike are expected to face consequences, including potential criminal charges for breaches of standards. He emphasized the importance of adhering to the rules of war and ensuring the safety of those conducting humanitarian work in conflict zones.

The investigation into the deadly air strike was conducted independently outside of the IDF’s chain of command, with full access to operational details and intelligence provided to investigators. Lt Col Lerner stressed the need for improved practices to prevent similar tragedies in the future and ensure the safety of aid workers.

Australia, along with other nations affected by the killing of aid workers, continues to seek justice and accountability in the aftermath of this tragic incident.

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