Devastating losses in Victoria as bushfires raze 116 houses

This is all that is left at Wye River.

Street after street of homes reduced to ash and rubble. In all, 98 have been destroyed.

Fire crews are still combing through the blackened ruins of homes on the Great Ocean Road. No lives were lost but the toll to property is devastating.

There have been 116 homes destroyed in Wye River and nearby Separation Creek combined.

One third of homes in Wye River have been razed to the ground but the town's main drag - home to its surf lifesaving club, general store and pub - escaped the devastation.

Popular tourist town of Lorne was temporarily deserted. Source: AAP
Popular tourist town of Lorne was temporarily deserted. Source: AAP

The Great Ocean Road is now a river of bitumen through charred and smouldering bush.

What should have been a day of peace and celebration instead of one of devastation and heartbreaking loss.

Some are holiday houses, many others are homes; all are now burnt to the ground.

The usually busy road and beaches are deserted.

Large bushfire at Wye River, taken Christmas Night. Source: AAP
Large bushfire at Wye River, taken Christmas Night. Source: AAP

At Separation Creek another 18 houses have been destroyed.

Many more stand just metres from where firefighters were able to beat back the blaze.

It was a miracle that no one was killed, but that is also thanks to the mass-evacuation that occurred right along the surf coast.

In Lorne you can see just how quickly they fled: Christmas lunch left half-eaten as the celebrations came to a sudden end.

As the moon rose over deserted streets the only sound was the wail of the town’s warning siren.

Even from here you could see it: The massive blaze started by a lightning strike a week ago burning out of control as flames and embers spewed into the sky.

Many spent a sleepless Christmas night in evacuation centres, this morning still not knowing whether they had homes to go to.

While the immediate danger is over, the area is now full of hazards; downed power lines, charred and weakened trees, and the danger of landslips.

Late today, residents began being bused in to see who had won and who had lost this devastating Christmas Day lottery.

Tonight both Wye River and Separation Creek largely remain no-go-zones.

While the communities begin counting the awful cost, Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews again reminded us the outcome could have been even worse.

“We can be very proud of our emergency service and proud that no lives were lost,” he said.

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