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February 9, 2009
Deadly bushfires destroy lives and homes in Australia

Bushfires have ravaged Australia.

Bushfires in Australia have killed more than 166 people and destroyed at least 740 homes. Some of the fires, which continue to burn in Victoria, are believed to have been set deliberately by arsonists.

They have been described as the worst fires in Australia’s history, fueled by drought and unusually hot temperatures over the weekend. At least one major hospital ran out of morphine as burn victims overwhelmed its supplies.

Victoria Premier John Brumby has been chronicling efforts to combat the fires on Twitter.

A volunteer firefighter has also been tweeting.

The “Missing Something” blog describes evacuating:

I wasn’t worried about my things when we evacuated, only photo albums and my dog, my mothers corgi and our cat — all three were secured and in the car before we were. […]

Think the worst thing was driving through the actual fire getting away — not only the fire but the animals we saw running away as well.

Ash Wednesday was bad but this…this is worse. I lived through Ash Wednesday, and today with the smoke haze hanging around I was reminded of it.

The “21st Century Learning” blog posts a letter from a teacher in the fire zone:

On Saturday, we (my colleagues and friends) lost one of our students in the bushfire – I taught him from Year 8 through to Year 12 – he got the best score in IT Apps for my class last year.  He stayed with his parents to protect their home and all three perished – his older brother and sister weren’t home at the time.  He was a school prefect, involved in musicals and drama productions, a great student and topped many subjects.  Many of last year’s Yr 12s came in today and the school community is devestated.

Also, one of my colleagues who retired 2 years ago and his wife have not been heard of since Saturday, so we are fearing the worst for him. […]Many families and kids lived in the area and were on high alert over the weekend and continue to be on high alert.  Buses aren’t running, so they can’t get to school.  Many have lost their homes, livestock, businesses, etc.  3 colleagues lost their homes while about 15 – 20 families lost their homes.

Firefighters work to combat the flames.

The “Nixxy’s Nails” blog watched as firefighters worked to stop the flames on the outskirts of Melbourne:

I’ve never had a situation like this before. This is suburbia – you just can’t picture it happening. But our suburb is right at the bottom of a mountain range with lots of forest.

[…]All the neighbours seemed to take heart that the still roaring winds were going to push the fire to the east of us, but all it takes is the wind to change or a flying ember to catch some dry grass. “Don’t worry,” one said, “If it was really serious they’d have the helicopters in here”.

And then [one] screamed overhead.

[…]The choppers went back and forth over and over and over, dumping water on the fire. And then after an hour, the smoke cleared and it was out! A huge sigh of relief all round, I can tell you.

Blogger “Darryl Mason” writes that the scale of tragedy is unimaginable in modern times:

More than 100 dead, almost 1000 homes, properties and business destroyed, entire towns and villages in country Victoria laid to waste, some 350,000 hectares burned.

Reading through dozens of stories, listening to the stories of remarkably calm and lucid survivors on radio, trying to take in all those images of horror on TV, of entire towns obliterated by fire and cyclonic winds, of lone firefighters taking on five and six story high walls of flames with a single hose, of frantic survivors trying to find missing friends and family members, it’s impossible to summarize any of it, all of it.

Again and again survivors describe “firestorms” that barreled in from nowhere and swept through faster than a train killing almost everything they touched. Why didn’t they leave sooner? Why wasn’t everyone evacuated? How did this appalling horror become reality, here? In this age? With all our technology? How can more than 100 people burn to death like this?

It’s like a tragedy from another century.

Watch a video from YouTube user lukemray that he filmed from his backyard as the fire approached:

Here is a map detailing the spread of the fire from the official Google Australia blog:

Photos courtesy of Flickr users cskk and jety under a Creative Commons license.

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Hi Jim,

Australian police have treated the fire zone as a crime scene because arson is suspected.

You can read more here:

Hope that helps.




Good report but why did you say this was “a crime scene.?” Martin’s video never told us why???

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