While conditions ease on Kangaroo Island, two people have been confirmed dead and a world-renowned resort has been decimated in a bushfire.
Areas of the South Australian island continue to burn with authorities warning of deteriorating conditions in coming days as the focus shifts towards damage assessment and recovery from the devastating blaze that has ravaged local communities.
Outback pilot Dick Lang, 78, and his 43-year-old son, Clayton Lang, were killed when their car became trapped by flames near Parndana and the destructive blaze that tore through 155,000 hectares has ravaged homes, farms and buildings.
One of the buildings destroyed in the fire was the luxurious Southern Ocean Lodge.
The Southern Ocean Lodge once offered 21 suites which allowed for guests to take in unobstructed views of the ocean.
Aerial footage shows the the lodge was greatly impacted by the out-of-control bushfire, prompting the company which owns the resort, Baillie Lodges, to issue a statement on their website, announcing the property’s closure.
“Baillie Lodges regrets to advise that Southern Ocean Lodge on South Australia’s Kangaroo Island has sustained significant damage by bushfire and the property is now closed,” the website reads.
“Currently, a reopening date has not been determined. The Southern Ocean Lodge team will embark on contacting guests as well as travel industry partners over the coming days to make alternative arrangements for upcoming reservations.”
Speaking to The Advertiser, James and Hayley Baillie, founders of Baillie Lodges, will rebuild, not just the lodge, but also the tourism industry on Kangaroo Island.
“In the short to medium term we would like to take the lead in rebuilding the Kangaroo Island tourism industry,” the Baillies told The Advertiser.
“As much as possible we would like to contribute to the economic and social recovery of the broader Kangaroo Island community, which has really been such a genuine part of the lodge’s resonance for both our Australian and international guests.”
In 2019, Southern Ocean Lodge Australia was named Conde Nast Traveller top resort, as voted by readers, and second overall in the South Pacific region.
“From the moment you walk into the vast atrium, your attention is drawn to the great outdoors,” Conde Nast Traveller wrote in their review.
“Over a third of the island is untouched national park land, and the sheer amount of wildlife is bewildering (there are 267 bird species alone).”
Authorities say ‘danger was not over’
The Middle River Water Treatment Plant was also damaged in the blaze, prompting SA Water to urge residents on the island to limit non-essential water use.
The plant was used to supply Kingscote, Parndana and surrounding areas with water now being drawn from the Penneshaw Desalination Plant.
SA Power Networks are working to restore services as about 600 properties remain without power.
On Sunday, the Country Fire Service said while the conditions have eased across the island, danger is still present.
"There are still patches of active fire along the fire edge, especially in the area around Stokes Bay," the CFS said.
"Residents need to stay alert for new fires in their area. There is the potential for flare-ups as winds pick up in the afternoon and the risk will increase later in the week with warmer, windier weather."
Water-bombing aircraft will continue to work across the fire zone in coming days as ground crews deal with any new fires and conduct mopping-up operations.
The state government has appointed wildlife official Mike Williams to lead the recovery.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service senior executive was named the local recovery coordinator to support islanders as they come to grips with their needs over the coming weeks and months.
"This is an unprecedented tragedy for the Kangaroo Island community, who are now facing a recovery effort on a scale never seen before on the island," SA Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink said.
"His appointment recognises the unique challenges facing Kangaroo Island as it embarks on the process of recovery, including geographic isolation, losses relative to population, impacts on local economic activity and community well-being."
Residents impacted by the blaze can also access hardship payments of $280 for each adult and up to $700 for a family to help with their immediate needs.
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