The official death toll this devastating Australian bushfire season has risen to 28 after Victorian authorities confirmed Wednesday that the death of a contractor in November was fire-related.
David Moresi, a a contractor working at the East Gippland, Gelantipy fire, died as a result of a vehicle rollover on November 30, 2019.
Confirmation of Mr Morese’s death came as hazardous smoke from the East Gipplsand fires continued to blanket Melbourne, delaying flights at the city’s airport and causing breath problems.
Mr Moresi was working with colleagues using bulldozers to create containment lines when he was flung from his vehicle during a rollover at the end of a shift. He died at the scene.
Mr Moresi’s death is Victoria’s fifth bushfire-related fatality and joins 20 dead in New South Wales and three in South Australia.
Victorian Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said he had attended the funeral which was a “fitting tribute” to a wonderful life.
“Our thoughts and condolences go to David’s widow, Judy, and family, given this tragic set of circumstances for someone who was working to keep our community safe,” Mr Crisp said.
“David was a pillar of the community, a dedicated educator. He loved the bush and he inspired so many people to be in the great outdoors,” Chief Fire Officer of Forest Fire Management Victoria Chris Hardman said.
The thick smoke blanketing much of southeastern Victoria is expected to ease later Wednesday as a cool change passes through, but the accompanying thunderstorm and rain may hinder firefighting efforts.
The smoke earlier caused the closure of one of Melbourne Airport’s resulting in some delays, a spokesperson confirmed.
It is the second consecutive day of poor air quality for the city, with Ambulance Victoria receiving more than 100 calls during the morning from people with breathing problems, an increase of 75 per cent.
Racing Victoria abandoned meets, but tennis players at the Australian Open qualifiers had to battle through delayed matches after complaining about the smoke on Tuesday.
The cool change is expected to pass through Melbourne between 4pm and 6pm, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, bringing up to 15mm of rain.
“Stay tuned for those dark, ominous clouds moving in from the north, because they could unleash heavy rainfall leading to flash flooding,” senior forecaster Kevin Parkyn told reporters.
Mr Parkyn said while the thunderstorms would clear the city smoke haze, it could create flash flooding and mudslides in fire-affected areas because of reduced vegetation.
There are 16 fires still burning across the state and more than 1.4 million hectares burnt.
Overnight about 14 people had to seek shelter by the beach when fires flared, but this time at Tamboon.
There are 1500 firefighters battling the blazes, including 130 from overseas and another 140 international personnel will arrive later in January.
There are 101 fires burning in NSW, with 40 uncontained, as blazes consumed more than 5.2 million hectares and destroyed 2079 homes confirmed destroyed.