One of my main focal points over the last few days has been the devastation that has been occuring in my home state of Victoria (Australia) with the (what is now) worst bushfires in the country’s history. Since the fires first claimed their early victims, I have been monitoring the ABC news website for updates on where the bushfires are, and more importantly where they are expected to be heading. For those that have not heard all about me, and where I am from, and where I grew up, one of the major fires (as in size) was the Kilmore East fire. Kilmore is just south of where I grew up in Seymour, and I have many family members still living in that part of the country today.
As a side note, my mother lives in Melbourne, and was not affected by the fires directly, although no-one remains unaffected by the effects of the fires throughout the state. My biggest fear when I first started seeing the news of the fires, was whether my mother had gone to visit her sisters or brothers in the country. A quick text message back home concluded the mum had not ventured “up north” and was sitting out the heat wave (as was happening at the time) in Melbourne. Second side note, Melbourne had been experiencing a heat wave leading up to the fires, and the day before Melbourne had it’s highest recorded temperature at 113F (45C).
The death toll as of writing this entry is 173 confirmed dead with expectations that the number will increase above 200 over the coming weeks as more bodies are found in the aftermath of the fires, and in excess of 750 homes destroyed. Among the dead are people who just didn’t have enough time to get out of the path of the fire, or underestimated the ferocity of the fire and were unable to “stay and save” their homes. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has stated that the fires are nothing short of mass murder given that a number of the fires were deliberately started. In Victoria, the sentence for an arsonist that starts a fire that kills one person, is the same as murder.
The last few days have been, and will remain, one of the darkest days in Australia’s history. Nothing can be done to undo the death and destruction that these fires have caused, and as I’ve said to a number of friends, there really is very little that can be done to beat a fire that is as uncontrollable as the ones that ripped through so many communities. What can be done, and is being done, is the Aussie mantra of looking out for our neighbors. People all over the country, and world, are reaching out to assist and help those directly affected to get some form of assistance while they try to determine the answer to “where to from here?”
It is a sad day for my home country, but even with all the sadness that is occuring right now, I am more overwhelmed with each story about what people are doing to help others in need. It’s the true spirit of what being an aussie is all about.