Tuesday, February 10, 2009

burning and drowning

We went to Newcastle on the weekend to escape the heat. 

Just writing that makes me feel sick. 

The death toll for the fires in Victoria has passed 170, they're expecting it to top 200. 

I can't stop thinking about it, people dying in cars trying to get away, people dying in their houses trying to shelter from the flames, people dying with hoses in their hand trying to fight the fires. 

What happened to the preparations? 
How could so many people get it wrong? 
What about building bunkers or cellars to shelter in? 
We talk about it, shocked, unable to comprehend. 
There are always bushfires, everyone knows that, everyone knows...so how could this happen?

And then we hear 

about the ferocity of the flames, the speed, some people had ninety seconds warning, the black smoke that engulfed the roads everything went pitchblack, you couldn't see and people were panicking, the car crashes and the ember attacks -  showers of sparks and embers blowing against the house and windows, blown into every crack and crevice and then the windows exploded and the dying pets the children listening to their cats dying and the family who were well prepared who did everything right and built a cellar and everything 
and the fire came right over the top
and the neighbour watched as the house exploded
and we found them all dead in the cellar
and the couple who took their kids to the grandparents place and went back to their house to try and save it - and were killed, and the man who took his kids to their grandparents and lost them all...

we learn of escapes, the brother who went on his tractor to get his sister and seven kids and how it took two trips to race them back to safety, a family who sheltered in a wombat hole, a mother and her kids who stayed until the house was on fire then ran through the flames wrapped in wet towels and jumped into their dam, the people who ran from house to hose as one after another caught fire, a man and a woman losing everything and everything around them but their two children and they hold each other and stroke each other and smile

and we hold onto these stories, we cling to them, these bright spots of hope, these lucky escapes, because the dreadful finality of the other is incomprehensible

and one state above, the floodwaters are starting to recede and people there are saying but we're lucky because we're not in Victoria, we're lucky

we're lucky


Anonymous said...

I'm in an eastern suburb of Melbourne, but a safe distance away from the fires. I've read the stories, too. Often in tears. Yesterday on the train a teen was flippantly joking with friends about probably no longer having a casual job because their workplace and their boss's house had burned down. It seemed so wrong, so self-indulgent, and so heartless to trivialize the loss in such a way.

Rebecca said...

Been watching the news in horror. I can only imagine that it feels a bit like when I see the pictures of malnourished Zimbabweans dying of cholera, just across the border, in a country that was once the breadbasket of southern Africa. Awful.

Maggie May said...

We have been watching with horror from over here and a friend has family near Melbourne & of course my blogging friends are near there too. Makes it all more personal somehow.
Seems almost obscene that over this way we have had a months rain dumped in one night, when you haven't had a drop for over a month. Makes you feel so helpless.
Lets hope & pray that the fires die right down & that there is no more loss of life and that the scum bags who are deliberately lighting these fires get caught & tried for mass murder. That they get a punishment fitting that crime.

This is the fourth time I have tried to comment & written this down but it is too important to give up.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, you so often find a way to express things that are so hard to comprehend. This is exactly what keeps running through my head too. I'm in inner Melbourne, well away from the fire fronts, but they have devastated so many familiar places and the stories are so distressing that I find it almost impossible to process.

Bloggers are mobilizing - Mike's has a link list in their sidebar of lots of different ways to help.

Betty M said...

It is dreadful. Very hard to explain to the kids when they see the pictures on tv.

SassyCupcakes said...

Today I felt lucky because I was going inside the CFA building and answering phones. The victim identification teams filling the footpaths make me cringe. I know of such a small part of what they're seeing and I cannot imagine how they're able to function as human beings.

The shear amount of people who have died is amazing. And many of them did everything right and still had no chance. At one point on Saturday a gust of wind would blow the fire 10m forward. That so many people escaped is amazing.

lucky #2 said...

How truly horrific. I am glad you are safe.

Grit said...

it is truly awful news, ovagirl, and we are so saddened by what we hear today in the uk. i'm glad you are safe.

Thalia said...

absolutely frightful, those are awful awful stories. I hope the worst is most definitely over.

Anonymous said...

Australia has been close to my heart these days. The horror of it all is overwhelming. You are all in my prayers.


Betty F said...

We've heard a lot about the fires and I was worried you were in the way. I'm not sure of my geography or where you live in Australia. You are all in my prayers and in the prayers of many Americans.
In Southern CA, we had fire seasons and awful people who'd start them. They need to be caught. I don't recall many this bad.

Anna said...

lovely ova girl,

we've been watching and reading and it's difficult to comprehend the horror.

our thoughts are with everyone in victoria and with all of you in the rest of the country, too.

anna h.

LL said...

OG, Beautifully put... I'm in inner Melbourne and safe however my family has been tragically affected by these fires in a couple of ways... and it's frightening when i speak to other melbournites, who all have similar tales... knowing someone who has lost loved ones or homes or had close calls.