Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bushfire catastrophe in Victoria, 07 February 2009

Last Saturday afternoon I reported that down in the south-eastern corner of Australia, in the state of Victoria, we were the hottest day ever on record, and that the expected bushfires were raging all over the state.

The Bunyip State Park blaze has been fanned by gusty winds. (LINK - AAP: Simon Mossman, file photo)

It saddens me to report that as I was writing that blog post, another tragic record was being broken: the most lives ever lost in Australia due to a bushfire inferno (several hundred souls lost, and the count is still increasing as the ashes are combed). It is now classified as Australia’s worst ever peacetime natural disaster.

Many people live in towns and villages an hour or so by road from downtown Melbourne, enjoying the beautiful Australian bush while being quite close to a major metropolis.

But mother nature had this terrible event in store, with hot gale-force northwesterly winds funneled in to the Victorian region after traveling across the hot continent, and on a day of record temperature. Whether caused by lightning strikes, accident or arson, the fires roared through the tinder dry forests at speeds that caught out even the best-prepared citizens.

One eye witness described a fire front first appearing some twenty kilometres away, then reaching his location about two minutes later. TWO MINUTES! Others said that the front approached like a tsunami of flame ten or twenty metres high.

Embers were reported settling down up to ten or fifteen kilometres ahead of the fire fronts. People found themselves suddenly and totally unexpectedly surround by raging fires. A few were lucky to survive where they were, but too many poor souls weren’t.

Some tried to flee by car, but they had no hope of outpacing the fires and were incinerated as they drove.Victoria's killer fires, 07 February 2009, No. 105

There were shocking images of the shells of their cars, showing the alloy wheels having melted and spread across the road. One driver who was lucky to survive said that his timber truck had melted, not burned!

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has coverage of the tragic bushfires here.

Victoria had two earlier bushfire disasters in the summers of 1983 (“Ash Wednesday”) and 1939 (“Black Friday”) but the firestorms of 7th February this year were even worse than those.

Please spare a thought and say a prayer for all of the victims and their families.

You couldn’t stop this inferno with 10,000 fire trucks and 1,000 helicopters:

1 comment:

  1. My father was a firefighter and I have heard a lot of stories about fires and how to fight them.
    In 1975 as a child I saw a disastrous fire in the L√ľneburger Heide ( Germany ). Yesterday I saw the pictures of the bushfire in the news. 1975 was scary but I think it is not comparable to what happens in Australia these days. God save you all.