Monday, February 09, 2009

Bushfire nightmare

Aussie radio is reporting that 130 people are now dead in the horrific bushfires around Melbourne.

Many more victims are expected to be found as emergency services investigate the burnt out areas, and many badly burned survivors are not expected to survive.

There are around thirty massive fires burning in Victoria, one for example is burning over 30,000 hectares. Radio has just reported that the one which has killed twenty-one people so far has now broken containment lines and is out of control, as are several others.

Many people have died trying to save their homes instead of evacuating, others have died in their cars as they tried to get away.

The scale of the disaster is hard to imagine. Fifteen percent of the population of the small town of Strathewen, pop 200, was killed when the town was destroyed.

At least twenty-two people died when Maryville, which I mentioned in my last post, was destroyed and more victims are expected to be found as the ruins are investigated.

In Kingslake, also destroyed, many fleeing motorists didn't make it out. In thick smoke, which is worse than the worst fog you can imagine, they were caught by towering flames. Some crashed into each other, others crashed into trees. There is a five car crash on the road out of town with all the cars burnt out.

The horrors awaiting the emergency services as they are able to go in don't bear thinking about. Utter destruction, bodies in houses, cars and in the open and a resident says there are dead animals all over the road.

That's another result of fires like these, the appalling loss of animal life, pets, domestic herds and wildlife.

It's hard to imagine what these fires are like. Listening to some of the interviews on radio gives some idea. The fires burn all the oxygen from the air, so water pumps stop operating and people can't breathe. They come so fast that people who have good fire plans and equipment don't have time to do anything but try to flee. The gum trees, which are full of eucalyptus oil, explode. The fires roar, there's heat, smoke, a wall of flames tens of metres high.

There are videos and audio tapes here.

Unbelievably a number of the fires have been started by arsonists. Some have been caught and will be charged. I've always believed that they should be charged with murder with a mandatory life sentence and no parole.

The cooler weather that has helped the exhausted firefighters a little but the forecast is for strong gusty winds and much higher temperatures over the next couple of days, the worst possible news.

God help them.

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