The ‘army of angels’ truck convoy delivering essential supplies to communities in fire-ravaged Victoria has received an emotional welcome from farmers in East Gippsland.
- The ‘army of angels’ truck convoy has arrived in a fire-ravaged East Gippsland community, much to the relief of residents
- More than 150 drivers have volunteered to help deliver essential supplies to communities impacted in Victoria
- One farmer in Omeo said many properties in his region had sustained serious damage over the weekend
One hundred and fifty trucks driven by volunteers left Bairnsdale this morning, loaded with provisions of all kinds, including animal feed.
For Omeo farmer Russell Foster, who spent Saturday defending his large property of 2,000 sheep and 200 cattle, the convoy was a sight for sore eyes to say the least.
“When a fire hits, you’re not thinking straight,” Mr Foster said.
“You’re racing around to try to put it out.
“My property’s been burned.
“Some farmers to be north of town got hit real bad, lost all their grass.
“We just [lost] 500 acres of grass and fences and machinery.”
In addition to the convoy of 150, more than two dozen trucks from the Ballarat region have formed a convoy to deliver hay to farmers in East Gippsland.
Omeo convoy tweet
Mr Foster fought back tears as help arrived in the form of a truck of hay driven by volunteer diesel mechanic Damien Britt.
“The generosity of people like Damien, to come up with the hay, is something else,” Mr Foster said.
“It’s just fantastic.
“This is just magnificent.”
Mr Britt said he had slept in his truck last night and left Melbourne just a few hours after midnight to deliver the hay to Omeo.
“Everybody is emotional,” he said.
“I think these farmers would do this for us — it’s the way we work. We all have to help each other out.”
Mr Britt and Mr Foster had never met before, but said they hope to have a beer together soon.
‘Army of angels’ just ‘want to give back’
One convoy of 150 trucks departed from Bairnsdale today loaded with hay for animals, food, clothes and toiletries.
Malcolm Leys, from East Gippsland Livestock Exchange, is organising the convoy which is bound for communities like Buchan and Omeo in the fire-ravaged region.
“We’re taking everything from dog food, cat food, sheep feed, hay, toothbrushes, you name it,” Mr Leys said.
“It’s been such a wonderful response.”
The truck drivers were referred to as “an army of angels” at a briefing in Bairnsdale this morning.
Among them was Barney Langham, a tree lopper from Anglesea, whose truck is loaded with hay — and his dogs, Coca and Ralph, who were tagging along for the ride.
“I just wanted to give back,” Mr Langham said.
Dozens join Ballarat convoy
Dunnstown beef cattle farmers Laiken and Karl Britt spent Sunday delivering hay to the community of Omeo, as another statewide convoy of almost 150 trucks delivered supplies to other parts of the state.
Ms Britt said she had been overwhelmed with the level of community response over the weekend to her online call-out for trucks and hay.
“If we expected that kind of response I reckon we would have planned it a couple of weeks away, not two days away,” she said.
Convoy FB post
“But it’s all worth it, we’re driving up into the bushes now in Omeo and there’s people on the side of the road smiling and waving.
“It’s really nice to know that we’re helping.”
“The road has been closed — I think this is the first time the road’s being used, and we’ve got 22 trucks on it.
“So it’s a bit unknown.”
‘Doesn’t get much worse’
Beekeeper Bill McNamara left his home on the Mornington Peninsula at 3am to drop off a load of hay to a fodder donation station just outside Bairnsdale.
“Fire on top of drought,” he said.
“It doesn’t get much worse.”
Mr McNamara said he had done “a whip-around” of others in his area, asking for hay to feed animals in fire-affected areas.
“We’ve had a good year back there,” he said.
“It’ll keep some livestock going.”
At Tallangatta in the state’s north-east, the relief centre has been so overrun with donations for fire-ravaged communities that it has had to turn some away.