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Australia - Damage bill for crop losses ‘in excess of $60m’

FIGURES are starting to emerge for massive crop losses caused by the Esperance fires, with WA Farmers saying the damage bill will likely be “in excess of $60 million”.

WA Farmers President Dale Park said $60 million was a conservative figure based on 200,000 tonnes of grain losses.

“I don’t know how many sheds, buildings, houses or machinery have been burnt but it’s likely to be a lot more than $60 million,” Mr Park said.

The firestorm, which claimed four lives after being sparked by lightning on Sunday, has razed more than 130,000ha and decimated crops during what would have been a bumper season.

Locals said that many growers had underinsured their crops this year and didn’t expect the harvest to be so fruitful.

“Any time is a bad time for fire, but to see your crop going up in smoke after what was going to be a bumper season is heartbreaking,” WA Farmers chief executive officer Stephen Brown said.

Mr Brown said the crops that bore the brunt of the fires were coarse grains — wheat, barley, canola, lupins, oats and hay.

Three houses have been destroyed as well as stock losses of 1800 heads of sheep.

The Department of Agriculture and Food said this number was expected to increase as further assessments were carried out.

WA Premier Colin Barnett announced on Thursday afternoon that the state government would donate $100,000 to the Lord Mayor’s Relief Fund.

“We will also be providing an emergency grant of $3,000 for those who have lost their home and a $1,000 emergency grant for those who have had severe damage to their home, but can return to it,” Mr Barnett said.

The Lord Mayor’s Distress Relief Fund, which is the recognised state emergency fund, will raise and co-ordinate donations to support victims of the fires burning in WA’s south.

Mr Barnett said the recovery process in Esperance was finally getting underway.

“The recovery process is now starting to get underway, however roads are still blocked in some areas, power poles are down and there have been damaged communications towers” he added.

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