More locals were asked to evacuate their homes in Perth’s northeast on Thursday after more than 80 homes were destroyed in bushfires that began earlier this week.
As the blazes continue while the Western Australian capital is on a five-day coronavirus lockdown, a local Sikh temple has been delivering food and drinks to firefighters and evacuees.
Jarnail Singh Bhaur, the secretary of the Sikh Gurudwara in Bennett Springs, said the temple was filled with at least 100 evacuees on Tuesday morning when nearby Ellenbrook residents – including him and his family – were asked by authorities to leave their homes.
“Because it’s the middle of the night and it’s COVID lockdown, it’s very hard for people to go anywhere,” Bhaur told HuffPost Australia on Thursday.
“We were receiving calls from our community members who live in Ellenbrook, asking us where to go. So then I quickly decided it’s better we open the Bennett Springs Gurudwara so if anyone wants to go, they can come there.
“We started preparing breakfast and lunch, and feeding all the people in the temple.”
Bhaur and a team of seven other volunteers from the temple then delivered hot cooked meals of vegetarian curry and rice to the firefighters.
“They told us they need more cold drinks because of the hot weather,” he said. “So yesterday we delivered 20 cartons of cold drinks from the gurudwara, and again this morning we took another 24 cartons of drinks like Gatorade and coconut water.”
The temple has also donated supplies to evacuation centres and continues to prepare hot meals for 15 agencies that look after the homeless and other people in need.
“In our religion, we pray twice a day, sarbat da bhala, which means everyone prospers,” said Bhaur. “For us, we treat all human beings as one, and if a crisis happens, it’s our moral duty to help them as much as we can.”
With the danger warnings having eased in Ellenbrook, Bhaur and his family have returned to their home.
However, more than 500 firefighters continue to battle a fire in the city’s northeast.
“The total number of homes lost has now been assessed as 81. I need to stress that the bushfire emergency is not over,” the state’s premier, Mark McGowan, said Thursday at a media conference.
“The threat to lives and homes remains, and emergency warnings are still in place. These fires are highly unpredictable, and things can go bad very quickly. Weather conditions are still volatile, with strong winds forecast. So, please, make sure you continue to follow the emergency advice.”
The fire has destroyed more than 9,000 hectares.
At the same time, 2 million Perth residents are under a five-day COVID-19 lockdown until Friday, after a hotel quarantine worker tested positive for the highly contagious variant of the virus first detected in Britain.
“It’s important everyone should have a plan and when emergency service personnel ask you to act on that plan, that trumps any lockdown orders,” David Littleproud, the emergency management minister, told the ABC.
“There should be no confusion about that.”
With files from Reuters.
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