Monday, February 09, 2009

"We really need help right now"

All major events are actually a jigsaw of small personal events, as with the bushfires devastating Victoria.

You can look at the photographs, read the stories that 130 are dead, that whole townships are destroyed but while it's a terrible story it's somehow at arms length, it's a news story, it's not on a personal level.

Then you hear real time audio of one person trapped right in the middle of it and it makes the hair on your neck stand on end.

Rhiannon, only twenty years old, called radio station 3AW as the fires raced towards the house where she and a group had taken shelter.

She was matter of fact, calm, well organised but obviously terrified. Here are a few snatches of the conversation:

"The property we've located to is surrounded completely by fire and we're just waiting for it to hit...

We've seen no emergency services and we really need help right now."

How many of you are there?

"Eight kids under ten, two elderly ladies, four adults...there's quite a few of us."

How far is the firefront from you?

"Half a kilometre...not even..."

And it's burning towards you?

"That's correct."

Is there any capacity at that property in terms of pumps, sprinklers?

We have pumps and sprinklers going but I don't know if that's enough.

We heard there's a strike force coming our way. If they're near we really need's just minutes away."

How far away did you say the flames are, half a kilometre?

"I can't even see the flames, there's too much smoke now.

Please send help."

The emergency services were simply overwhelmed, the situation was obviously critical, the conversation ended.

Then sometime later the line with Rhiannon was reconnected.

"Hi Rhiannon. You're OK!"

"For the moment. I can't see much there's smoke everywhere. We need as much help as we can get up here.

The house we were at was engulfed in flames and there are still people in the house.

We're going back for them in the tractor."

Rhianna was saved by her eighteen year old brother Rhys who had driven a tiny tractor through the burning paddocks, cut his way through the fences to the house and got them all out.

Emotional stuff.

If you want the real story behind the headlines, and get a feel for what people are going through, the full audio tape is here.


hemlock said...


The Mupersans said...

Hey Seabee. 173 people confirmed dead this morning. I used to consider myself to be pretty hardhearted - coming from South Africa, you have to harden yourself to senseless violence & death. A year in beautiful Australia has softened that hardness and now I can't watch or listen to a news bulletin without the tearing up. This is a very sad time. There are hundreds of horror stories being told by the survivors. Entire towns have been wiped out. Its tragic.

Dave said...

The whole thing saddens me so much.......

Well done to Kevin Rudd though for getting involved a few days ago and seeing firsthand what is occuring down there. I don't think I've ever seen a leader brought to tears and letting his guard down so much as he did in the TV interview aired on BBC World...

Seabee said...

I'm reading The Age and listening to the radio almost non-stop. 173 is an awful toll and the police are saying it could rise to around an unbelievable 300. Like you I'm sitting here choking at the the horror of it all. The people, the animals, the utter destruction of whole communities, the hundreds, even thousands, who've lost friends and family, lost their homes and livelihoods.

We're due in Sydney on Sunday and I'm expecting a much more sombre time than usual.