As the state of Queensland in Australia sinks under king tides and rising flood waters and they achieve rainfall totals to break records - my corner of Australia is tinderbox dry and as of Saturday 7th Feb 2009, is burning up!
Around my own home town, a large fire that skirted the town on three sides came close to ripping through this city, flames surfing on the viciously hot and powerful winds. The temperatures in South Eastern Australia yesterday had to be experienced to be understood. Imagine a Saharan Sirocco, blasting across the desert sand at high speed with the intense heat of a blast furnace oven, scorching all in its path. For the past three weeks, we've had temperatures daily in excess of 37+ Celcius. Yesterday, temperatures reached into the high 40's Celcius. My town reached a top of 46C (114F)
The only difference between here and the Sahara right now is that we have stuff that can burn! 5000 hectares of land, three homes, the Golf club (one of the best in the state), stock, native wildlife... we are actually "lucky". Around the rest of Victoria, lives have been lost. As I write, some 20 + people have lost their lives in this terrifying war by heat and flames.
100's of houses have been lost on the outskirts of Melbourne. Over in the far South East of Melbourne, the fires still rage, threatening annihilation on whole communities.
Nothing really totally prepares us for these events. The Country Fire Authority, stretched to absolute maximum capacity has barely enough resources to cope with disasters of this magnitude. They rely, almost entirely, on the fortitude of an overburdened volunteer force, our main defensive weapon we have against the onslaught of a fire storm.
People will demand the Australian Government "do" something, of course. The Government is now fraught with an almighty conundrum. We had been promised financial packages to continue to "stimulate the economy" in light of the current economic climate. Now however, that AUD$42 Billion package may seem an appallingly short-sighted announcement given that that money is likely going to be needed to help the people of Queensland re-build after the worst flooding in living memory as well as the people who've been burned so badly in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
Lives, property, land! It's easy to be numbed to the numbers, they are just not able to be seen in the mind in order to comprehend their scope.
Touted as worse than the disastrous Ash Wednesday bushfires of 1983, this past two days will be yet another day marked by a name - as opposed to a date - that many will immediately identify as this moment in time when our land seared and was razed to the ground to ashes.