This post is really for my international readers, just in case the news hasn’t gone international. Though if you’ve been keeping up with my Twitter, you’re probably well aware.
There were the infamous Ash Wednesday bushfires in my state, Victoria, in 1983. I wasn’t born until 1986, so I wasn’t alive at the time. When I was in sixth grade, there was an accidental fire in my kitchen when I was home alone. Though I got over it, I’m still terrified of fire. I still don’t like candlelight, and I worry that the barbecue hasn’t been fully been doused after cooking, and I worry that people don’t stub out their cigarettes properly. And worry of people drinking alcohol near an open flame, like a campfire or something. I had a few sessions with a psychiatrist in…2005, I think. The topic of fire never arose until one day I was in the waiting room for my appointment, and my psychiatrist was running late. She called into the medical centre, and it turned out there was an electrical fire or something at her house. I never booked another appointment, because my problems seemed like nothing compared to that. I still have a home, in good shape. Like any old house it needs some repairs, but basically I don’t have to worry about housefires. And we’ve never had a bushfire in our suburb, so my mind can rest about that.
Though if you read my LiveJournal; you’ll know that there was a fire in my street last week. One of the power lines caught fire from the landclearing going on at the old nunnery. It was a nervous wait for the fire truck, which brought back memories of my fire fear.
Saturday 7th February 2009 will now be known as Black Saturday, because of the numerous bushfires that ravaged the state. Last I heard, there are still 30 fires going, and it’s now Tuesday morning. It’s the worst natural disaster Australia has ever experienced, and I don’t think I ever believed it would be in my state, Victoria. After all, there was Cyclone (hurricane to you North Americans) Tracey in Darwin. Queensland and Western Australia also get cyclones of varying degrees every year. If anywhere, I expected bushfires to mainly occur in South Australia, where they consistently have longer periods of hot weather.
The death toll is currently confirmed at 131, but it will no doubt rise. As far as I know, no one I know directly has died, been wounded, or lost their house. And though watching and reading the news is so upsetting, saddening, depressing, I can’t NOT keep track of what’s going on. It’s easier to turn a blind eye when bad things are happening overseas, or even interstate. But when it’s so close (figuratively, anyway) to home…it’s just not right to be ignorant. Maybe you can forget that all this has happened and is going on, but at the moment I can’t.
It does put your own problems – mine, too – in perspective. We have places to live. We have food and water, and more clothes than just the ones on our back. We have pets who are alive, and can sleep without fear that our homes and lives are at risk.
Word on the street is one of the fires at Gippsland was deliberately lit. Words can’t describe how horrendous that person is/those people are. The Prime Minister described it as “mass murder”. It seems fitting for this occasion.
The Australian Red Cross has opened the Victorian Bushfire Appeal 2009. You can keep updated with all the news at the Herald Sun. I think there’s also a number if you can call if you’re having trouble finding/contacting people.