A fire has destroyed a popular pub and backpacker hostel in the Queensland town of Bundaberg.
Authorities said the fire broke out at the Spotted Dog Tavern on Bourbong Street in Bundaberg Central at 1pm on Monday, before spreading to the Federal Backpackers hostel next door, destroying both buildings.
About 40 firefighters worked through the night at the scene, with specialist appliances called in from the Sunshine Coast to help.
Police said all patrons at the pub and 60 hostel guests were safely evacuated and reported no injuries.
Police established an exclusion zone around the area overnight and a smoke hazard warning was issued to all nearby residents.
The exclusion zone remained on Tuesday, bound by the Burnett River, Maryborough Street, Woongarra Street and Burrum Street.
Several other people were evacuated from a nearby hotel as a precaution.
The fire has been contained but is still smouldering.
Emergency crews will stay on scene today to continue dampening down hotspots.
There are fears the facade of the building could collapse and structural engineers will attend the scene to ensure it is safe.
The cause has not yet been determined.
Buildings ‘totally destroyed’
QFES Area commander John Pappas said crews faced a “deep seated” blaze and labelled it a “terrible event”.
“It’s one of the biggest fires we’ve seen in the Bundaberg area in some time,” he said.
Mr Pappas said both the pub and hostel were “totally destroyed”.
“It is a total loss.
“The fire took hold in all levels of the backpackers,” he said.
Mr Pappas said every fire had the possibility of being “horrific” and praised the quick actions of the employees.
“Making sure that they did account for all persons and safely evacuate them is what we’ve seen as a successful outcome.”
The evacuated people have been given temporary accommodation organised by the local council and Queensland police.
Most of the visitors were from Vanuatu and some from Europe.
The council is working with embassies to get passports and personal identification for those who lost documentation in the blaze.
Community relieved no lives lost
Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey said the community had their “hearts in our throats” when news first broke of the blaze.
“It was certainly pleasing to see those involved were able to evacuate people safely,” he said.
Councillor Dempsey said seeing such an “iconic building” in ruins was a major loss for the town.
“It certainly strikes at the heart of the community,” he said.
“People will have memories going back over 100 years with these particular buildings.”
Less than a month ago the town marked the 20th anniversary of the nearby Childers backpacker hostel fire, which killed 15 people.