Shoppers are discovering empty shelves at Woolworths and Coles stores across Melbourne as the supermarket giants scramble to donate essential items to bushfire-stricken communities.
South Morang’s Antonietta Sabatino noticed bottled water was scarce during two separate shopping visits to supermarkets in the city’s north on Tuesday.
“I tried Woolworths and found they had no 300ml water bottles in stock, so then I tried Coles and they too didn’t have any,” she said.
“I thought it was unusual, I’ve never seen that happen before, but then a worker advised me the stock had “been out for a while” and was being distributed to the CFA.
“It’s a wonderful act of community spirit.”
Woolworths operations manager for Victoria and Tasmania Mike Carty said the initiative was part of a long-term partnership with The Salvation Army and the S.T. A. N. D (Support Through Australian Natural Disasters) program.
“We have helped supply 50 pallets of water to our partner The Salvation Army to distribute to the CFA for use across the far east of Gippsland,” he said.
“We understand it’s an anxious time and thank customers for their patience as we manage the increased demand on stores and negotiate road closures and changing weather conditions.”
Salvation Army’s Robert Champion said volunteers were working “around the clock”.
He said 1.6 tonnes of bottled water had been delivered on a police boat to 4000 people stranded on a beach in Mallacoota, while the Salvation Army was also working with the military to drop off relief packages via helicopter to isolated communities inland.
Mr Champion also said food and water would be dropped off at the Melbourne Convention Centre where thousands of evacuees are expected to arrive on Saturday night.
Coles has also donated 1033 cartons of food and essentials to Foodbank, which will then be distributed by road and sea freight to emergency centres in Gippsland.
“Our volunteers have been run-off their feet, they’re dog-tired, but they’re still smiling,” Mr Champion said.
“They’ve experienced tales of absolute trauma, but the way the community has responded has been outstanding.”