All Maltese victims covered by insurance
All the Maltese who lost their property in the bushfires that engulfed Canberra in mid-January are covered by insurance, it was learnt during a visit to them by the Maltese High Commissioner in Canberra, Ivan Fsadni.
Dr Fsadni invited the victims to the High Commission where, in the presence of Alfred Flask, president of the Maltese Australian Association of Canberra and Queanbeyan, they discussed what practical help could be given.
Dr Fsadni first called at 17, Kathner Street in the suburb of Chapman, where they met Mary Borg Caruana, whose home was completely destroyed. With her were her son Bernard, her daughter Charlotte Russell and her grandchildren Julia Russell and Carla Borg Caruana who live in neighbouring suburbs that were also badly hit by the fires. Luckily, their homes were saved.
Mrs Borg Caruana explained to Dr Fsadni how the fire engulfed the entire house in a very short time. She said the glass in the windows melted down because of the heat's intensity.
She told the High Commissioner she was on her own at the time and she left the house just before it was completely destroyed. Her biggest regret is that she did not have time to salvage any photographs or sentimental objects that were inside.
The Borg Caruanas are well-known in the Maltese community - Elia Borg Caruana spent several years working in the consulate in Sydney and in the High Commission in Canberra. He also served as Acting High Commissioner between 1982 and 1986. He is currently living in an aged-care facility.
The High Commissioner next visited 3, De Graaff Street, Holder where he met Jeanne Tonna and her son Keith who used to live at that address together with the husband, Eustace Tonna. Her daughter, Tabitha Wannet was also present.
Keith and his father were fishing away from Canberra when they heard about the bushfires. They rushed back home but the whole house and its contents were already destroyed by the time they got back. Eustace's four-wheel drive, which was in the driveway, caught fire and the Canberra Times displayed on its front page a dramatic picture of the burning vehicle.
Mrs Tonna was at home when the flames reached her home suddenly. Like many others she was unable to save anything in her panic and she was truly sorry that she could not take her cat, Brian, with her. She had given up the prospect of ever seeing Brian again but two days later it was found, safe and sound, on the debris that once was the Tonna home. This brought a big smile to her face.
In Holder, Dr Fsadni also went to 63, Hyndes Crescent where he met Tony Muscat and his wife Margaret. They said that the fires completely destroyed the garage and some sheds in the garden but the family home was spared. They hope to be able to move back within a very short time.
The damage was not great but they lost their Christmas decorations, including a statue of Baby Jesus. Mr Muscat treasured this as it had been given to him as a child during the time he used to go to Christian doctrine classes.
Dr Fsadni expressed his gratitude for the cooperation and solidarity shown from all quarters in these tragic circumstances that claimed four lives and in which many others suffered serious injuries. Over 520 houses were destroyed and many others were damaged.
Dr Fsadni said he wished to thank all those responsible for the interest they showed and for the way in which they behaved. He especially thanked the media for the coverage that they provided. They did not cause unnecessary alarm and they showed respect for the victims' privacy.
For their part, the victims appreciated the sense of solidarity expressed not only by their families and neighbours, but also from other Maltese in both Australia and in Malta. They said they were grateful for this and thanked everybody through Dr Fsadni and his staff and Mr Flask and his committee.