I awoke this morning (Sunday 8 February 2009) at 6.00 am in Sydney Australia to hear the terrible news that 25 people had perished in the fires raging around Melbourne in Victoria. At 5.17pm as I write this that number has increased to 50 with more deaths expected as fire fighters move further into the fire zones.
The bodies are being found in towns North East of Melbourne with 4 bodies in 1 vehicle. 20 people have been admitted to Melbourne's Alfred Hospital with burns, 3 are in a critical condition and at least 7 have burns to 30% of their bodies.
At Marysville in the Yarra Valley the entire township, with the exception of 1 building, has been destroyed. Hundreds of homes across the State have been destroyed and many families have lost everything they owned.
20 fires rage across Victoria and volunteers and aircraft for water bombing etc are moving into the state from NSW and South Australia. It is possible the Australian Army will also be asked to assist.
Police believe that some of the fires were deliberately lit but at this stage they will not say which fires. These are reportedly the worst bushfires in Victoria since the Ash Wednesday fires that burned across Victoria and South Australia 26 years ago. In those fires 75 people lost their lives and 2000 homes were destroyed.
The present heatwave conditions in the eastern states of Australia and in South Australia have seen a continuance day after day of temperatures up to 44 degrees celcius. This present heatwave in Victoria is the worst experienced since 1908 and comes on the back of a 12 year drought.
60 fires burn across NSW and the majority of those were no doubt deliberately lit. One can only wonder about people who deliberately light fires and cause death and devastation to probably total strangers.
We are hoping in Sydney to have the relief of a southerly change coming through tonight. Most homes that are fortunate enough to have air conditioning have had it running continuously for days. There is no way you could get through the days and nights with any degree of comfort without air conditioning. My thoughts are constantly with those that don't have the luxury of a cool home. There's no way we can do anything outside so we have been confined to quarters, so to speak, for the last 3 days as the temperature rose above 40 degrees celcius. Our 2 dogs have lived inside constantly except for short breaks in the yard and our old moggie, Jasmine, is also reaping the benefits of the cool air inside.
Tomorrow the temperature here near Penrith is expected to be 29 degrees with showers and then dropping to 27 degrees on Tuesday and 25 degrees with showers on Wednesday. I hope that Victoria will also have a cool change and heavy rain there would be a blessing and a help with putting out the fires.
It's time, way beyond it in fact, when the 'greenies' were not considered anymore with regards to clearing of trees near homes, no matter where they may be built. Councils will not allow us to remove gum trees and will only allow trimming back branches if they consider that it is necessary. I have long had a beef about this with 2 large gum trees on a neighbouring property right on the fence line between us and with the majority of the branches of those 2 trees hanging over my property and my house. And yet to have anything done about them I have to pay for the Council to come and assess and tell me what can be done and then I have to fight my neighbour to spend the money to have the branches cut off (if allowed) that could be of danger to my home.
There's no consideration given for the constant build up of leaves in the gutters from those trees and yet this is another danger as far as fires go. If the trees behind the houses here catch fire as they have done in previous years, the burning leaves blow across our homes and onto our roofs. If the gutters are full of debris then there is a very strong likelihood that the gutters will burst into flames and there goes your home. However we must not remove trees unless of course we are developers building a shopping centre or a service station or factories. They remove hundreds of gum trees and then plant other less offending trees to replace them.
Seems that if you have money then the Council drops their rules about not allowing gum trees to be removed. If you are just a rate payer with a home and there are gum trees on your property or neighbouring properties, then that's just bad luck and you are expected to cope with the disadvantages as it's politically correct to leave a few of the mongrel trees in a residential area. Mind you most of the trees are knocked down to allow the maximum homes to be built that will eventually be rate payers, but a few have to remain to appease the greenies. I say to hell with all of them.
And so today in Australia it's the same story where there is either a feast or a famine, a fire or floods. Let's hope that the death toll does not rise any further and that the fires are brought under control before more homes and lives are devastated in the year 2009.