Pub becomes headquarters of recovery operation

PHIL Soley is a man on a mission.

His office is the Dunalley pub, and his desk is the pool table.

The oyster farmer is happy to report that the town's oyster hatcheries, which are critical to so many businesses, were saved.

Now, the Dunalley resident is busy trying to get essentials into the Tasman Peninsula to help speed up the recovery.

"I'm just running on adrenalin. We have to get shit happening that needs to happen," he said.

Those who still have homes, like Bream Creek's Lionel Williams, have gone without power since Friday. He is surviving on tank water, and an hour of mobile phone reception a day.

As a volunteer for Ambulance Tasmania he is luckier than most in getting regular, firsthand accounts of what's happening in the outside world.

Sharee Mills owns the hairdressers at Dunalley, which still stands. Next door, the bakery was torched.

She arrived on Saturday to find her house was also untouched.

"It's unreal. Around the perimeter of my house it's all gone, but the premises is still there," the mother-of- four said.

"My first reaction, when I drove in (and saw the town) was to vomit."

Her daughter Billee Hassett adds: "I cried."

The nine-year-old was due to start grade 4 next month at Dunalley Primary School.

The school sign is still attached to some bricks, but little else except the hall remains.

"This is the heart of Dunalley," her mother says.

"This is what we live here for, this school."

Education Minister Nick McKim has promised the school will be rebuilt.

In the meantime, its 130 pupils will need somewhere else to go before term 1 starts on February 5.

Over the past few days, the Dunalley Hotel has transformed into a community centre where residents can turn up to be fed, but also to exchange stories and lend support.

The woman who sits with a folder, ready to help, is living on a boat.

Fiona "Fern" Jennings, of Dunalley, has been instrumental in setting up a community centre behind the pub.

"So that Bill (Kidd) can go back to being a publican, and that we have a central place for the community to come," she explains.

From the pub's porch the path of devastation is clear.

But Ms Jennings points to the fish market, marvelling: "Look, it's still there. Five people were around that fighting the fire even though the heat and the smoke (on Friday) was just incredible."

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