News National Morwell fires will be investigated, Vic government reveals

Morwell fires will be investigated, Vic government reveals

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• Morwell locals angry at fire response, despite free train rides
• Mine stability a concern as fire continues

An independent inquiry will be held into the Morwell fires, the Victorian government has announced.

Deputy Premier and Emergency Services Minister Peter Ryan says the inquiry will look at all questions being asked about the coal mine fire.

On Friday, Chief Health Officer Rosemary Lester advised people aged over 65, pre-school children, pregnant women and anyone with a pre-existing heart or lung condition to move temporarily from Morwell South, the area closest to the mine.

But people outside the vulnerable group are angry with the response by authorities, heckling them at a media conference in the town on Friday.

Mr Ryan says the government is guided by Dr Lester’s recommendations and its twin focus is on putting out the fire as soon as possible and helping locals as best it can.

“When they are accommodated, we’ll then move to the position of an independent inquiry,” he told reporters.

Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews called on the federal government to take over, saying the Napthine government had botched its response to the people of Morwell.

Mr Andrews said confusing advice was given to residents and an information centre was only set up on Friday.

“So inept, so incompetent has this government’s response to unfolding disaster been, I think the people of Morwell would be right to say perhaps Dr Napthine just doesn’t care about us,” he told reporters.

“It got worse yesterday, because apparently if you’re 66 years old, this community is dangerous and you should get out but, if you’re 64 years old, it’s perfectly safe,” he said.

Mr Ryan accused Mr Andrews of cheap politics by trying to feed into the anxiety locals are feeling and undermining the advice by Dr Lester to government.

“This is base American dog whistling politics,” he said.

It’s expected to take at least another 10 days to get on top of the fire in the Hazelwood open-cut mine that’s been burning for nearly three weeks.

Dr Lester said moving temporarily would be the best way for vulnerable people to avoid the continuing smoke.

The government expects the commonwealth will approve Victoria’s application for natural disaster relief within two days, triggering assistance for small businesses affected by the blaze.