Revellers at the annual four-day Falls Festival on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road have been told to pack up and leave, with the event rated too dangerous to continue due to extreme weather conditions.
About 9000 festivalgoers, who began arriving at the site on Friday, will have until 9am on Monday to leave the Lorne site – allowing time to sober up – as predicted extreme weather settles over the fire-prone Otway Ranges.
Organisers say the weather and tinder-dry surrounding terrain at the festival site in the hills behind the resort town of Lorne pose a potentially life-threatening risk.
“We are gutted to make this call but the safety of our patrons, artists and staff is our main priority,” organisers Secret Sounds Co chief executive Jessica Ducrou said on Sunday, adding the decision had been made in consultation with emergency services officials.
Organisers expanded on their reasons in a Facebook post, explaining how conditions presented a risk to health and safety due to potential fires, smoke, severe winds and tree hazards,” the festival posted.
“The decision has not been made lightly, our patron and staff safety is our priority,” the post says.
“Forecasted conditions have gotten significantly worse in the past 12 hours, with information coming to light that has not been available to us before the event kicked off on December 28th.
“After consultation with local and regional fire authorities and other emergency stakeholders, it is clear that we have no other option.”
Extreme heat, wind, possible storms and fire risk are on the cards for Monday in the area, Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Dean Stewart told AAP.
“It is going to be hot, it is going to be windy there is some potential for storms coming across,” Mr Stewart said.
“The heat and the wind will push the fire danger up to severe to extreme around parts of the state. If you have all those people in a bush environment … it is not a good recipe.”
Food, medical and toilets will remain open on Sunday but there won’t be any music playing or bars open.
Partygoers are urged not to go back to Lorne or other coastal towns as the same extreme weather conditions are in place, while the Otways faces an extreme fire risk.
Full ticket refunds – including booking and payment processing fees – will be processed from Monday back to the original purchaser’s credit card.
Falls Festivals events in Byron, Marion Bay and Fremantle remain unaffected.
– with AAP