February 12, 2009

Hell Down Under

-Bushfire In Victoria

"Everybody's gone. Everybody's gone. Everybody. Their houses are gone. They're all dead in the houses there. Everybody's dead," cried survivor Christopher Harvey as he walked through the town of Kinglake, where most people were killed.

-- One massive bushfire tore through several towns in the southern state of Victoria on Saturday night, destroying everything in its path. Many people died in cars trying to flee and others were killed huddled in their homes, yet some escaped by jumping into swimming pools or farm reservoirs.

The exploding bushfires in Victoria are Australia's worst natural disaster in more than a century.    The death toll stands at 181 and will no doubt rise as more bodies are discovered.    It is impossible to comprehend the magnitude of the disaster.

One father. a journalist who escaped with his family  wrote
They warn you that it comes fast, but the word fast doesn't come anywhere near describing it. It comes at you like a runaway train. One minute you are preparing. The next you are fighting for your home. Then you are fighting for your life.

But it is not minutes that come between; it's more like seconds. The firestorm moves faster than you can think, let alone react.

Police suspect the fires may have been deliberately set.
a source said it appeared the Victorian blazes had been started in accordance with a plan. They appear to have been set in a semi-circle, the individual parts of which would join up to form a huge wall of flame.

Marysville, the 'ground zero' of destruction has been declared "one huge crime scene".

Prime minister Kevin Rudd described the arsonists as 'mass murderers' and has said the arsonists should 'rot in jail'.

A-Bushfire-Burns

One firefighter described the horror and the awful decision to save themselves knowing they were leaving people to die.

"We had people banging on the sides of our tanker begging us to go back to houses where they knew there were people trapped, but we couldn't because if we had, we'd all be dead too," Mr Munday said.

"There were children running down the streets with flames behind them. It was hell. I never want to go back to that place, never.

 Australian Fire Photo

A graphic of the path of destruction.    Photos at The Big Picture.

Many bodies were burned beyond recognition and may never be identified.

-Covered Body Australia

One man climbed onto a pub roof to save 400 people
ARMED with only a garden hose, tradie Peter Thorneycroft didn't hesitate before climbing on to the roof of Kinglake's National Park Hotel.

With dozens of children sheltered in the hotel's cool room, he knew it was the only way to put out embers threatening to ignite the building.  Despite struggling with an arm injury, the 43-year-old also fought the embers with buckets of water handed up by brave locals.
--
"It was like a cyclone, like a tornado," Mr Thorneycroft said yesterday.    "The ground was constantly shaking. It was absolutely deafening. It was just complete darkness. I never panic . . . (but) I was s......g myself.
--
Eleven years after losing his Kinglake home in a fire, Mr Thorneycroft left his new home to defend the pub. Miraculously the house survived.  Wife Jodie, 41, had left the area but kept in constant phone contact during the drama.  "Everyone was just in hysterics," she said.

"He just kept going, 'Everyone's dead, everyone's dead' and I just said, 'Shut up and do what you've got to do'."

 Hero Australian Bushfire


Greens also get some of the blame
The fire experts said not enough had been done to thin out forest areas that posed a danger to small communities in the heart of the bush.  The green lobby is against forests being thinned out because they say clearing bracken, logs and fallen leaves upsets the balance of nature.

In Strathewen, a town ravaged by the fires, resident John Murphy was more terse.

'I was told by the Greenies that I mustn't touch this twig or that stick because a mouse might want to live under it,' he said. 'Well to hell with the mice. People are dead - and so's the mouse.'

One man who lost his mother and brother in the fires criticized the town council's failure to give property owners permission to clean up around their properties in preparation for bushfire season.

We've lost two people in my family because you dickheads won't cut trees down.  We wanted trees cut down on the side of the road … and you can't even cut the grass for God's sake."

Millions of animals feared dead
Kangaroos, wombats, native birds and reptiles stood little chance against the swiftly advancing blazes that devastated more than 400,000 hectares in the state of Victoria.
Corpses of dead wallabies and kangaroos still lined roads in the worst-hit areas, with rescue crews were too busy to clear them from sight. There were also reports of birds and bats falling out of the sky during the fires. One turtle was found with its shell fused together.

One koala was saved, now called Survivor Sam.  YouTube video here.

 Koala Saved-1

Donations to the Victorian bushfire appeal at the Australian Red Cross.

Posted by Jill Fallon at February 12, 2009 11:21 AM | Permalink