Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bushfire - Update and Thoughts

The death toll still stands at 181 but is expected to go higher. Our newspaper today lists 25 names of missing persons. This more than doubles the numbers killed by bushfires in Victoria over the past century
The number of homes and buildings destroyed has passed 1,800 and 7,000 are homeless.
We have had cool conditions here (it has been showers for a week and almost continuous rain for the last 24 hours) and it is hard to imagine it was near 40'C last Saturday and struggling to reach 20'C today. However, while it is cooler in Victoria, they have had only a little rain and temperatures are beginning to rise again. Half the fires are still burning.

The news on TV and in the newspapers continues and I am beginning to avoid it as I wonder when news turns into voyeurism.

The loss of 50 lives in the plane crash in Buffalo, USA shows that death and sadness continues.

If you have not read Maithri at The Soaring Impulse describing life in Swaziland and particularly one woman caring for orphaned grandchildren who lost her home to fire, please do so. It often concerns me that we are easily distressed and moved to donate by tragedies close to home yet carry on our daily lives with only a brief thought now and then of the daily tragedy occurring in countries of the developing world.

The donations to the Red Cross Appeal have passed $100 million.
My thoughts are always conflicted here. Of course those who have lost family members or are injured need support and anyone who has lost all their possessions needs temporary help. However we always hear of people who, while apparently comfortable, have no insurance. One man owned 7 holiday cabins and they were not insured. This appals me.

I am not sure about Victoria but in NSW, I am able to fully insure my house at no extra cost despite being located in a fire prone bush area which has been burnt out twice in the past 35 years. Those who live in flood prone areas are not so lucky.
The great loss to me would be of personal photos, memories and tokens which no money can replace.

However I am moved by the flood victims in Queensland (while the Southern state has burnt, over half of Queensland has been flooded) who gave most and for some all of their government relief cheque to the fire victims appeal.

One arsonist has been charged and moved to a prison out of the area for his own safety. Such people are obviously mentally ill but must be incarcerated for the sake of the community.

The inevitable discussions are occurring, some heatedly.

The advice in Australia has always been to either leave early or, if capable, stay and defend your house. Usually a fire front moves quickly over the house and if you are physically able, properly dressed, have a place to retreat as the front passes and sufficent resources, you can save your house which typically burns after the front has passed.
As related, I stayed in 2002, although I was very nervous. Thankfully there was plenty of help and the front was moving slowly.

This time there were unusually severe circumstances. Temperatures were breaking all records, winds were ferocious and a fire storm erupted. Many people died by deciding to leave in their cars at the last moment which has always been advised as being the very worst decision. Whether they would have survived by staying in their homes will never be known, many didn't. Those who did, describe unbelievable conditions.

The other debate has been on the lack of clearing and hazard reduction. I am in the middle on this discussion. I was happy to see the bushfire brigade burn my lower property about 15 years ago and would be happy to see them do so again, now that 7 years have passed since the fire. I paid $1100 to have one fairly small section manually cleared just over a year ago and must work on another section myself. However I also love the bush and could never imagine living again in a completely built up area.

As a Geography teacher I began teaching my classes about possible climate change in the early 80's. It was just a theory then but I become exasperated with the doubters today. All temperature records were broken in the Southern states last weekend, not by just half a degree but by 2 or 3 degrees. Queensland's floods are equalling if not breaking records. Both situations are forecast by climate change models.

Finally a good news story.

Dogs' miraculous survival lifts spirits in Alexandra

Briefly, a couple were not at home but rang their neighbours to save their dogs locked in their house. The neighbours were unable to do so. The lady began to exhibit signs of a nervous breakdown and was about to be admitted to a mental hospital when news came through that the dogs and the house had been saved.


June Butler said...

Prayers for those who died and for their families and friends. Prayers that no more lives are lost.

Thanks be to God that the lives of the dogs were saved. A bright spot in the gloom.

Fran said...

Oh Brian, oh Brian... So many prayers for your country.

And yes Maithri had quite the post up to give perspective.

I love the doggies!!

Göran Koch-Swahne said...