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The Victorian Bushfires

February 9, 2009

Good evening.

On Saturday, February 7th, the mercury soared to 46.4 degrees Celsius – Melbourne’s hottest day ever.

That day is now known as “Black Saturday”.

Dozens and dozens of bushfires tore apart the state, with the death toll currently sitting at 126. That figure is expected to rise.

Some fires are still raging.

My thoughts are with the victims and their families.

It is the worst natural disaster to ever strike Australia.

Here is an article from “The Australian” Newpaper.,24897,25027160-601,00.html

Ewin Hannan, George Megalogenis and Julie-Anne Davies | February 09, 2009

THE death toll in the nation’s worst bushfires has risen to 108, and senior police fear more victims will be found.

(32 votes)
Death toll continues to soar
At least 108 people are dead, with more expected, in Australia’s worst natural disaster.

Police confirmed today the numbers of fatalities had reached triple figures, as firefighters discovered more bodies overnight.

Victoria Police chief commissioner Christine Nixon warned the public to prepare for news of more deaths.

”I still think that we do have more to find, and that will be because we are getting into different areas that were previously too hot for us to go there,” she told Melbourne radio.

”Now the CFA and Victoria Police are going there and, of course, finding people in those locations.”

Police said 20 people had died at Kinglake West; 12 at Kinglake; 10 at St Andrews; 10 at Callignee; 8 at Marysville; 7 at Steeles Creek; 5 at Hazelwood; 5 at Flowerdale; 4 at Wondong; 4 at Humevale; 4 at Koornalla; 3 at Taggerty; 2 at Strathewan; 2 at Jeeralang; 2 at Mudgegonga; 2 at Hazeldene; 1 at Arthurs Creek, Eaglehawk, Long Gully and Yarra Glen.

Firefighters continued to battle fires this morning, with the town of Stanley near Beechworth potentially under threat. .

Victoria Police had confirmed 108 people dead, including four children in one house, while the CFA said more than 100 people were still unaccounted for.

Up to 700 homes and 340,000ha of land were destroyed. More than 3730 people had registered with the Red Cross as having left their properties and the total homeless figure is expected to be much higher.

Among those confirmed dead was Brian Naylor, one of the state’s most recognised faces as a long-time newsreader for the Nine Network, and a resident of one of the worst-affected areas in Kinglake. Mr Naylor’s wife, Moiree, also perished.

State government officials were worried the final number of people killed could double to about 130 by the time the search of all properties was completed.

“Hell in all its fury has visited the good people of Victoria in the last 24 hours and many good people now lie dead, many others lie injured,” Kevin Rudd said yesterday as he pledged both financial aid and the support of the Australian Defence Force for the recovery effort.

Despite repeated warnings in the lead-up to Saturday’s heatwave, the state was overwhelmed by a series of fires, some of them believed to be deliberately lit, that stretched from the South Australian to the NSW borders, up the centre of Victoria, and down toward the coast in Gippsland.

“The firefighters were hit early and hit hard and the fires were impossible to control,” Victorian Premier John Brumby said last night. “It was worse than Ash Wednesday and Black Friday.”

In a cruel twist of nature, while Melburnians greeted a cool change late on Saturday afternoon after the mercury had hit a record high of 46.4C – the highest for any Australian capital city – the shifting winds turned a fire one hour to the city’s northeast in the Kinglake area into a raging inferno.

Of the 700 or so properties destroyed so far throughout the state, 550 were from this pocket of the picturesque Yarra Valley.

Across the Great Dividing Range, the postcard-perfect township of Marysville was flattened to a ghastly mess of rubble and soot, with only one or two buildings left standing. So far two people have been confirmed dead, including 73-year-old Marie Walsh, but townsfolk fear there are up to 11 bodies lying in those ruins, or in the surrounding ashes. Some of those are feared to be children.

“I asked one friend about her dad and she just looked blankly at me and said, ‘He’s gone’,” said Stephen Collins, manager of Marysville’s Kooringa resort. “I believe 11 friends have perished.”

When snow comes to Victoria’s high country, Marysville is a charming coffee stop on the road to the ski slopes. When the wind and heat came on Saturday, bringing with it fire of devastating intensity, Marysville was razed.

On the suburban outskirts of Bendigo, the home town of Mr Brumby, a cigarette butt flicked from a passing car is believed to have started a fire that claimed at least two lives.

The nation went to bed on Saturday night with the news that 14 were already dead and with police saying the final number could be in the 40s.

By 5pm yesterday, the count had been put at 50, which surpassed the 47 Victorian lives lost in the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires. The Ash Wednesday fires had claimed a further 29 people in South Australia, for a total of 76 dead. That unwanted record was matched at 8.10pm yesterday when police confirmed 76 dead and at 9.30pm the toll was raised to 84. Although it is too early for explanations or recriminations, CFA officials said many of the victims lost their lives because they fled too late.

“If we want a key message out of this – and I’m not second-guessing the cause because we’re not far advanced – it is about keeping off the road,” CFA deputy chief officer Steve Warrington said. “It about not being anywhere near a road during a fire event, and that probably refers to late-minute evacuations, do not do it.”

But for every horror story of people who failed to outrun the flames, there are heroic escapes. Gary Hughes, a senior writer for The Australian’s Melbourne bureau, writes today of his family’s brush with death. They lost their home at St Andrews, in the Kinglake area. But they count themselves lucky as 12 of their neighbours are already confirmed dead. St Andrews had the largest individual death toll as of 8pm last night, followed by 12 in Kinglake and a further 10 in Kinglake West.

As survivors and firefighters emerged from the Kinglake area, they would hear the earlier bodycounts, shake their head and say: “No, it’s many more than that.”

Throughout the area’s blackened rolling hills and gullies there were dreadful accounts of death.

People perished in their homes and on the roads as they fled. One woman, a firefighter, died at St Andrews when she returned to her home to save her animals.

A man from Mount Beauty was found on the outskirts of St Andrews separated from his motorbike. Firefighters believe he was running for his life.

Firefighters described chaotic scenes of cars that had crashed into trees or into one another and that were yesterday black and smouldering, some of them with their doors flung open.

Police believe that six people died in a pile-up of cars on the outskirts of Kinglake.

Reaction to the unfolding drama was swift, and moving. Authorities received offers of help from firefighters in NSW, Canberra, South Australia and Tasmania.

The Prime Minister spoke to Mr Brumby in the early hours of Sunday and offered the services of the Australian Defence Force.

The offer was accepted. The federal Government will match dollar-for-dollar what the state raises for a community relief fund.

Mr Rudd visited a CFA command centre in Kangaroo Ground, south of the Kinglake area, and joined Mr Brumby and Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon for one of many sombre press conferences held through the day.

Mr Rudd said this was an appalling tragedy for the state, and for the nation.

“To echo what the Premier said before, our first response as human beings is one of just the deepest empathy for people whose lives have now been devastated,” Mr Rudd said.

“This loss of life, the numbers of injured and horrific injuries, our thoughts and our prayers go out to each and everyone of them as they now try and deal with this tragedy and recover from the damage which has occurred.

“Also as human beings we salute the extraordinary courage of all the emergency services workers. And, the Premier and I’ve heard just some small stories of this today, there’ll be others larger told later on.”

I think we owe all the firefighters a big thankyou for their efforts fighting the fires around the clock.

I think it would be nice to not post anything else for the day, and remember those who have died in the fires.


13 Comments leave one →
  1. February 9, 2009 3:03 am

    btw, victoria is the state in australia that i live in

  2. February 9, 2009 8:26 am

    Oh wow, I had no idea what was going on.

  3. February 10, 2009 2:46 pm

    Yeah Josh DITTO!
    And there 2 fires near where I live and im on hih-alert! 😀

  4. February 11, 2009 12:53 am

    ohno crys serious? thats terrible!!! i hope you stay safe.

  5. February 11, 2009 8:12 am

    You’d better BOTH keep safe or I’m going to freak out.

  6. February 11, 2009 5:34 pm

    man if anything bad happens to you… i dont even KNOW what i would do. stay safe guys.

  7. February 11, 2009 5:59 pm

    I heard it was an arson

  8. ζiρΦ7 permalink
    February 11, 2009 8:06 pm

    It is the same scenario of wildfires in the USA, specifically Calif. Exactly the same, only it doesn’t occur yearly and now more frequently as the fires do in Calif. However, it is non-the-less-life threatening or sad.

  9. February 12, 2009 4:04 am

    opus, the police think some or most of the fires were the work of arsonists (omg how many times have i said that lol)

  10. February 12, 2009 8:09 am

    Whoever they are, they are going to be in alot of trouble. (Oooh, I hope the FBI gets called over there to investigate.)

  11. February 12, 2009 10:50 pm

    LOL! The Australian detctective blahdey blahdey blahdey is TRYING t find the arsons. But its kinda hard. :-/
    Yeah stell? i can’t promise anything with the ‘keep safe’ part of your comment. But,heck, i’ll TRY ok? :-/

  12. February 12, 2009 11:47 pm

    theres a fire in a suburb that is 10-ish minutes away from me. dont worry, ill be fine. lol, stell, we dont have an fbi, lol, its just the police and the forensic police people. they found one arsonist today that lit the gippsland fire that killed 21 people. i think the death toll has reached 200, but not too sure on that figure yet.

  13. February 13, 2009 10:54 am

    Wow…. he’ll probably get life in jail or something.. not too familiar with Australian law practices. 🙂

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