Monday, February 9

Tragic loss of life in bush fire inferno

All Victorian records have now been ecilpsed ; the longest dry period ever without rain -none this year except for a few drops, only 2% humidity, 3 consecutive days of temperatures exceeding 43 C (109 F) and with catastrophic consequences last Saturdays hottest day ever at 46.4 C (115 F) became the catalyst for over 100 raging bush fires which aleady represent the worst natural disaster to ever befall Australia.

Over 5,000 homeless and it is thought there could be up to 300 people dead. Just about everyone knows somebody badly effected in in way or another. If you would like to read or hear some of the stories of this unprecedented disaster click here.
There is also a good coverage at Bloomberg.

Bush Fires down under are like hell in all it's fury, since the oils from leaves of the giant eucalyptus ignite the whole tree and causes such heat intensity the tree literally explodes with such force that fireballs ignite bushland up to a kilometers ahead of the main fire front. Burning embers travel another 15 km further on to create spot fires.

The intense radiation and accompanying heat and smoke fanned by fierce winds of up to 100 km/h decimated whole townships as no dwelling was spared. In some towns everything was raised to the ground whilst in others up to 50% were destroyed.

The death toll continues to rise as emergency fire teams and the army gain entry to previously completely inaccessible hostile regions captive to the raging fire. But new spot fires continue to ignite dense nationl parkland areas in addition to those fires which are already burning out of control and threatening the Glenhope area north of Melbourne and towns of Beechworth and Yackandandah in the northeast.

Our family and close friends are all safe and their homes are intact but a good friend of my wife lost her house whilst another's grandson has perished.

That is the the news for the moment- "The nation should brace itself for a very challenging time ahead," said Prime Minster Kevin Rudd - see his interview here.


Seraphine said...

that is so sad.
california is no stranger to wildfires, so i've seen them on television, and it's very scary because literally there is nothing one can do once they get raging.
i've seen stories about the australian fires in the papers and on the web. it's tragic. awful.

gfid said...

it's a frightening situation. i'm thinking cool snow and ice thoughts for you, wishing them your way. prayers and blessings to you and yours, dear LL.

Zee said...

Thank you for writing this Lindsay (I was secretly hoping you would and therefore refrained to write something myself...)
People often only look at the "bodycount" to describe a catastrophe like this, which of course is foolish. The damage is much greater in reality and it will take lots of time, sacrifice and effort to heal all wounds.

In that light, I will send you love and courage to rebuild what presently got lost.
Regards, Zee.

Laura said...

When we moved to California, I was afraid of earthquakes. We lived through a few tremors but the wildfires were downright scary. They get out of hand so easily!

We've been hearing a lot about the Australian fires which are as bad as anything I remember hearing about! I hope everyone you know has faired OK.

Seraphine said...

i read today about the animals, thousands of animals, that were killed or injured in the fires. it said kangaroos are territorial, so many of them escaped the fire but returned to their smoldering homes and severely burned their feet in the leftover embers.

susan said...

Lindsay, I was very troubled when I read about this last week. The problems you've spoken about with such clarity regarding water usage and climate change came immediately to mind. When human groups were tribal and nomadic we were much better prepared to live in harmony with the land even in semi-fertile desert areas like California and Australia. Anthropologists and land management specialists have strong empirical evidence that Native Americans in the west used fire to make the land more conducive to human habitation. Unfortunately, westerners arrived in these areas with very different ideas about homes and lifestyles and so we see these horrifying visions of entire rooted communities that burn with the same ferocity as the eucalyptus.

I send my condolences to the innocents who suffered through you, my friend.

DellaB said...

Hi Lindsay.. thanks for posting the links.. needless to say we are glued to the tv news.

Funny, I woke up this morning with a sharp feeling of dread, couldn't place it for a minute or two, then realised I must have absorbed some of the despair.. thought just for a moment I was sleeping in a tent, and looking around me realising it wasn't just a dream.. subconscious transference? Wonder where THAT came from.. I am safe and dry and very comfortable, thank you, in my own home and bed. Maybe I should stop watching the news?

and.. yes thank you I did read Vanessa's note on plastic.. I didn't know you had 2 daughters though, I often check out Rachael's notes.

and more.. I have had some astounding news, not ready yet to share publicly.. I will write you..

Seraphine said...

bettina is going free hugs in milano, so i'm just passing them forward.
hugs to you.

lindsaylobe said...

Hi Sera, Gfid, Zee, Laura, Susan & Della

Thanks for your kind words.

Sera - the devastation is unbelievable - as if a nuclear explosion occurred with the resultant loss of practically all life that stood in its way - except for wombats that have their homes underground.

Zee- It will take along time and tremendous effort to heal all wounds.

Laura - the inferno was like no other- flames up to 70 meters high and travelling at 10KM a minute - it simply enveloped everything in its path- the noise of exploding trees and thick choking smoke combined with intense heat and 100 km strong winds was unbelievable.

Susan - Many of the townships around the picturess Yarra Valley close to where I live were carved out of the forest during the gold rush period in the 19th century.
Prior to colonization aboriginals implemented widespread burning of the bush. Many trees and plant species depend upon bush fires for their survival since their seeds only burst open if exposed to intense heat-to later germinate.

The extreme dryness exceeded previous all previous known records and no one fully anticipated the fires ferocity and speed.

If they had attempted to evacuate (- say over a million people at risk ) where would you put them? In such event there would have been far more fatalities in the ensuing chaos of evacuation with many more perishing in the ensuing inferno.

As it was there were over 5000 fire trucks in operation and the army but they couldn’t get into many of the areas-in the extreme conditions.

I am off to Sydney for a week- so I possibly won’t be blogging

Best wishes

Gary said...

Thanks Lindsay. Of course I thought of you and yours last week... and everyone else I know in Australia.

Fires such as those swept through part of BC in 2004 (near my mother in Kelowna). However, there was enough notice to evacuate before 300 plus homes burned and not a single life was lost.

I feel for those suffering and fear for future fires with climate change leading us to more extreme weather.

P.S. Anna and I will be in Oz next December for a wedding (all but confirmed)

Michael Manning said...

Unlike Seraphine, I live now in the desert and yet in the brush areas north of me it takes only an errant cigarette to start a blaze. I am very saddened by this unimagiable destruction. My thoughts and prayers go out to all.

Sylvana said...

I am so sorry to hear about this tragedy. And so sorry that it has hit you personally.

Know that we are thinking of you!

lindsaylobe said...

Hi Gary & Michael & Sylvania
Thanks for your thoughts;
Gary- I trust we can catch up with you & Anna.
Michael - you can understand the conditions which are soon to get much worse since we are expecting up to 15o KLH winds soon and very continued very hot conditions for even worse conditions that existed on black Saturday last. Many of the fires continue to burn and we have not had a drop of rain since Christmas.
Sylvana yes, as the tragedy unfolded just about everyone knew someone affected - we are in the Yarra Valley area which is also experiencing severe hardship for the many tourist areas now virtually deserted.
Best wishes