Saturday, February 14, 2009

Victoria's Bushfire Tragedy

Today marks the one week anniversary of the most devastating bushfire our nation has ever experienced.

One of Australia's most harden soldiers likened the devastation to "worse than a war-zone" - the ferocity compared to 500 atomic bombs.

We in Australia live in a land that was described by the poet Dorothy McKeller in "I Love A Sunburnt Country":
"Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold;"
For the past twelve years, the country has endured drought - children have grown up not knowing what rain is; cattle have died; crops have been lost; and those that live on the land are finding it easier to walk away than battle mother nature. For the past three years, we have lived under water restrictions - we have harvested grey water like squirrels harvest nuts for winter; we have installed water tanks to catch the droplets of rain that appear and disappear; we have adopted the "155" motto of using only 155 litres of water per day; we have watched our lawns brown and our garden die all in the name of water conservation.

Our valuable water storage levels have diminished to a paltry 30percent - they were over double this barely three years ago. We are looking to desalination as one of the resources to increase what little water we have. Although this is applauded - it is not by those who will live within the vicinity of such a water generating resource.

And so, this fateful summer, as temperatures soared to 45 degree celsius for over a week (a record since 1908 here in Victoria) - and a high pressure system lounged lazily over the southern part of the state, the wind picked up and came down from the north.

And then the fires began - some by mother nature herself - and some by the hand of man. The fires raged with such ferocity and with such speed, they struck without warning, devastating all in their path. Some joined to become firey avalanches, cascading down valleys and rolling over mountains - their fury and savagery intense - nothing of their likeness ever seen before.

Those that could fled; however many decided to stay and fight. We are not a nation of quitters. Many perished fleeing and many perished in the homes they built and the towns they loved.

The human cost was high - 181 souls lost - many still missing. The loss of homes, schools, businesses was also high. Whole communities have been wiped from the face of the earth - one town is a crime scene. Will residents return - many are still undecided.

And now the ugly face of humanity has shown itself - looters - those scum who prey on the loss of others - have descended upon communities abandoned in the face of nature's fireball, sifting through the ashes of peoples lives, taking what little remains.

The fires are still raging - the CFA (Country Fire Authority) are still out there battling away - help has arrived from our Kiwi neighbours - the true ANZAC spirit. And people will not let this tragedy defeat them.

I won't post links to news sites - there are too many - but I will post two:

To all my friends online, I am safe and well, and sincerely thank you for your thoughts and wishes. We had a small fire near us, but only trees were the innocent victims. Usually the two mountains on either side of the valley I live in go up each and every summer - and yet but some strange and most welcome coincidence, this year they did not.

But the end is not yet in sight. Fires still range and the weather forecast is for most warm weather (30s). So, I will extend my personal condolences to those who have lost, and my well wishes to those who continue to fight.

And in the words of Banjo Patterson:
And with Australia's flag shall fly
A spray of wattle-bough
To symbolise our unity --
We're all Australians now.

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