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Victorians battle the heat on New Year’s Eve

With tens of thousands of people expected to head into the city, authorities declared Melbourne “safe” but urged Victorians to celebrate sensibly as Covid concerns linger and a heatwave grips the state.Police and ambulance chiefs issued a sober ­warning to partygoers on the dangers of drinking excessive alcohol during the sweltering heat.Temperatures in most parts of the state are not expected to peak until 5pm. Melbourne was at 37C at 5pm.‘Very high’ fire danger ratings have been released for the Wimmera and Mallee districts, as well as northern country regions.While an out-of-control grassfire is burning in the state’s far west.An emergency warning was issued at 3.15pm for the Victorian towns of Dergholm, Dorodong, Langkoop, Poolaijelo, Powers Creek and Wrattonbully near the South Australian border. Warmest so far has been at Kanagulk in the Wimmera, hitting 39C at 3.10pm.Laverton hit 38.8C at 3.10pm while Melbourne reached 37C.A “mini tornado” has also reportedly hit Stawell with reports some homes have been damaged.AROUND VICTORIABallarat – 35CGeelong – 37CLakes Entrance – 29CMildura – 37CRye – 31CShepparton – 36CWarrnambool – 27CBureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Tom Delamotte said Victoria’s eastern areas were feeling some reprieve from the sweltering heat, with the Gippsland region resting in the mid to high 20s.The number of people who have lost their lives in water continues to climb in Victoriawith tragic updates in the search for a woman who was swept off rocks at San Remo on Thursday and a toddler who fell into a Footscray pond on Monday.Photos have emerged of a half-submerged houseboat at popular holiday spot Lake Eildon. It’s not clear what led to the incident.Emergency crews are also involved in a rescue at Bells Beach after a cliff collapsed. Four people are believed to be trapped but not seriously hurt, but one person is believed to have suffered serious injuries.A New Year’s Eve performance of Moulin Rouge was cancelled mid-show, with organisers saying it was due to a positive Covid result.CELEBRATE BUT BE CAUTIOUSFederal Health Minister Greg Hunt urged people to celebrate on New Year’s with common sense because of the Omicron threat.“Avoid the mosh pit. Don’t pack in large, close numbers. That’s common sense,” he said.Police Minister Lisa Neville said, thanks to high vaccination rates, it was OK for ­Victorians to celebrate despite rising Covid case numbers.But she said anyone without a booking for a restaurant or one of the city’s celebration zones should not come into the city centre. “Be assured here in the City of Melbourne, it is safe,” she said. “We can (celebrate) if we are safe about it, sensible about it and come out and care for each other.” The temperature is expected to still be as high as 28C when the countdown to midnight begins to welcome 2022.Residents in the northwest of the state are expected to swelter in 40C-plus conditions on New Year’s Day.Melbourne CBD’s festivities will again be more muted for the second year.Even so, restaurants have reported strong bookings, while the city’s hotels are at near capacity as family and friends seek to come together in a private, Covid-safe fashion. Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said Covid had thrown “another curve ball” in this year’s preparations.Tens of thousands, rather than hundreds of thousands, would be in the city, she said.“There will be music and laughter, what’s not to love?’’ Cr Capp said. A total of 42,500 people will enjoy the four sold-out celebration zones, while a handful of tickets were still available late on Thursday for the Street Feasts program running at seven dining precincts across the CBD. No fireworks will operate from city rooftops this year, just localised displays at the celebration zones at 9.30pm and midnight.Howard & Sons Pyrotechnics’ Rusty Johnson said it was “a very different year”.“It’s not as big as in the past but we are so happy to be back to bring fireworks to the people of Melbourne,” he said.The drone swarm display planned for Docklands had to be cancelled because of Covid-related issues in the ­operator’s preparation, but Cr Capp hopes it will be up and running early in the new year.Ms Neville said “a substantial number” of police and PSOs would be out with a focus on safety.“We know it’s going to be hot weather and there will be a lot of people out and about and Victoria Police will have a really strong focus on anti-social behaviour (and) violence,’’ Ms Neville said. Mr Nugent said thousands of extra officers would be out in force to ensure a safe New Year’s Eve, with a focus on coastal areas such as the Surf Coast, Phillip Island and Lakes Entrance, as well as the Melbourne bayside areas. Ambulance Victoria Deputy Commander Matt McCrohan said people should stay hydrated during the heat and keep an eye out for the vulnerable in the community. He also reiterated the high risks, especially for children, in locked cars on hot days.“Cars can heat up very quickly and can kill young children,’’ he said. “And heat kills more people than any natural disaster.’’Pet owners were urged to secure their properties to stop their fur babies escaping during the festivities.Lost Dogs Home spokeswoman Suzana Talevski said an increasing number of pets spooked by fireworks turned up at the organisation’s North Melbourne and Cranbourne shelters every New Year’s Day. ‘’The numbers are quite clear, and they are quite staggering – 62 pets arrived on our doorsteps, confused, scared and in severe need of TLC on January 1 this year,’’ she said. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOWWEATHERMelbourne: Today: 38C Sunny (28C at midnight)Tomorrow: 37C Mostly sunnySunday: 27C Partly cloudyMonday: 21C Partly cloudyCELEBRATION ZONES (Sold out): Docklands, Flagstaff Gardens, Alexandra Gardens and Treasury Gardens. From 6pm to 1am, featuring entertainment and localised fireworks at 9.30pm and midnight.STREET FEASTS Docklands (New Quay), Fed Square, Flinders Lane East, Flinders Lane West, Lt Bourke St, Lt Collins St, Russell Place.TRANSPORT Metro and regional trains, trams and buses free from 6pm on New Year’s Eve until 6am on New Year’s Day. Metro trains and trams (except routes 78 and 82) will run all night.SHOPPINGMost centres open 10am New Year’s DayREGIONAL FIREWORKSBendigo: 9.15pm and midnightGeelong: 9.30pm and midnightLakes Entrance: 9.30pm and midnightMildura: 9.30pm and midnightPhillip Island: cancelledShepparton: 10.25pm and midnight

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