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On the 9th February, disaster stuck the Latrobe Valley [Australia], a bushfire surging from Hernes Oak on an extreme fire day sparked a fire in a disused part of an open cut brown coal mine owned by GDF SUEZ Australian Energy.
It has come to light that this part of the mine was supposed to be capped and re-mediated to prevent fire… but it was not. It has come to light that there should have been fire safety infrastructure in place while the coal was exposed… but it was not.
The township of Morwell and surrounding areas were continuously exposed to sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and PM2.5 particulates for over ten days before any sort of (extremely limited) funds were made available from the government. Masks were not distributed by the government, it was left up to charities and local pharmacists. Transportation and civic shelter was not offered until well after smoke and particulate exposure had reached dangerous levels.
Why are there huge gaps in the EPA data? What do they not want us to know? They demand that we have access to ALL of the information to what they are breathing in every day.
Latrobe Regional Hospital is underfunded at the best of times, and with a surge of respiratory ailments even more so - they demand increased funding to the hospital.
They are told to leave by governing bodies but were given no real assistance to do so. They demand the government to stop ignoring them and give them real options for their future, their health and their families.
What they are fighting for is full accountability from GDF Suez for placing the bottom line before the safety of the community that has supported them - they want answers, they demand to know why the mine was not capped? Where did the sprinkler infrastructure go?
They demand that they need to be compensated for loss of housing value, loss of income, relocation expenses and medical expenses, now and in the future.
They call upon union support and the support of community organisations to mobilise for this rally.