LIVES IN RUINS: Residents return to their homes after a bushfire passed through at Winmalee in the Blue Mountains.
LIVES IN RUINS: Residents return to their homes after a bushfire passed through at Winmalee in the Blue Mountains. Dan Himbrechts - AAP

Mayor Pisasale reaches out to fire-ravaged community

A TRAUMATISED mayor of the Blue Mountains broke down in tears on TV yesterday after he spoke about receiving a phone call from his Ipswich counterpart, Paul Pisasale.

 Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill has been in an emotional whirlwind since bushfires tore through his region - and the call from the mayor of Ipswich obviously touched him.

"I was walking through Springwood; I was near the disaster relief centre and this number kept coming up and I was obviously getting a lot of calls and I took this call and this voice said: ' Paul Pisasale, Mayor of Ipswich here; thinking of you'," Mr Greenhill told ABC News.

Asked what the mayor's phone call meant to him, he put his hand over his heart and was unable to speak.

Mr Greenhill later texted Paul Pisasale saying, "Your solidarity caused me to tear up on ABC TV today. I told the interviewer about your call and choked.

"With all you went through. You understand! And my dad comes from Ipswich! Cheers, mate."

Mayor Pisasale said memories of communities that helped Ipswich after the 2011 floods inspired him to call Mr Greenhill.

"On Saturday, I was driving along and I started reflecting on what happened in 2011 and I got a bit emotional," he said.

"This all flashed back to me so I got on the internet and chased up the number. I tried all day to ring him and I finally got him.

"He said: ' I was so pleased you called.' I know what he's going through. His father's from Ipswich as well so we have that connection.

"We chatted for a while and I said: ' Mate, let me know what's needed. I've got some experience if you need my help.

"Just settle down and I'll be there for you.'

"I rang on behalf of the city to let people know we'd be there for them. And the city will be because the phones have been going; the best thing I can say is just wait and I'll let you know what we need."

He said he and other support agencies in Ipswich learned a great deal after the 2011 floods.

"People want to help, but just wait. Wait and we'll co- ordinate a good response," he said.

"With people's good intentions, they send down a truckload of this and a truckload of that but timing's crucial in these events; what you get at the right time.

"In the beginning stages, the first thing you need to give people is compassion, the second stage is cleaning and building things.

"So there is a sequence when it comes to natural disasters; that's one thing I've learned. I'm going to co- ordinate with Mark; he's going to get his co- ordinator to give me a buzz.

"We've learned a lot of this could affect any community in Australia and what makes Australians is we all work together and help each other with care and compassion."

He said the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, who are known as the Blue Angels, was on standby to help the devastated NSW communities. "We were probably the first city in the world to sign a care and compassion MOU with Tzu Chi and I spoke to them on Saturday and they really want to help," the mayor said.

"They've got a lot of dollars and a lot of volunteers they want to put in on behalf of the city and we're ready to send down our Blue Angels.

"They'll be going down to represent the city. They're very well co- ordinated around the world with natural disasters.

"Whether they need food packages or blankets or whatever or direct cash; whatever it is, we're ready to provide it."



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