A cross post for Global Voices:
It is being called Australia’s worst natural disaster. Bushfires have devastated the South East. The worst impact is in Victoria with 108 confirmed deaths and more than 750 houses incinerated. Whole towns such as Marysville have been wiped out, destroying their communities.
Disbelief has been a very common reaction. Daryl Mason at The Orstrahyun:
The scope of the destruction, the scale of human tragedy of the apocalyptic Sunday fires in country Victoria, Australia's worst bushfire disaster, is beyond comprehension.
More than 100 dead, almost 1000 homes, properties and business destroyed, entire towns and villages in country Victoria laid to waste, some 350,000 hectares burned.
Reading through dozens of stories, listening to the stories of remarkably calm and lucid survivors on radio, trying to take in all those images of horror on TV, of entire towns obliterated by fire and cyclonic winds, of lone firefighters taking on five and six story high walls of flames with a single hose, of frantic survivors trying to find missing friends and family members, it's impossible to summarize any of it, all of it.
The indiscriminate nature of the tragedy was brought home by the death of a very well known Victorian, former news reader Brian Naylor. Like most members of our local media he was well acquainted with bushfires. Andrew Norton, at his self-titled blog, paid tribute to him:
Among the 108 confirmed dead as of this morning is Brian Naylor, who read the Channel Nine news for twenty years from 1978, in the years when Nine news dominated the ratings. Almost everyone who lived in Melbourne at that time would have received part of their news from Naylor, who had the sober, sensible and reliable demeanour we prefer in newsreaders, but could also handle the touching or quirky stories that Nine often liked to finish with.
He ended each broadcast with ‘may your news be good news, and goodnight’. It’s so sad that he ended his life as part of a very bad news story, for so many people.
Twitter has been buzzing during this emergency. Annette's Blog, Shoosh, the grown-ups are talking, posted her tweets last night:
# 08:41 Oh dear gods. Woke up to find the #bushfires became a lot worse overnight. It sounds like 2 whole towns got wiped out and familes missing.
# 09:34 In shock. Official said the Vic #bushfires are 300% their WORST cast scenarios! Skynews report: tinyurl.com/by4d8f
# 09:54 Bloody hell. Even the Premier is on Twitter @vicpremier. He's asking for blood donations (tho not thru Twitter). Will now watch TV news. eep
# 10:20 Whoa. Just found out that friends who moved to Kinglake lost their home but were among the “lucky ones” who got out alive. o_0 #bushfires
# 11:09 searching for Lixa who lives in the abandoned church in Craigieburn, outside of Melbourne. Worried about her. #bushfires #melbourne
Her twitter search is very active.
Meet Me at Mike’s is a craft blog. It took up the issue of how its readers could help:
I know that lots of saddened people want to make SOFTIES to donate to kids affected by these fires. Bianca at The Toy Society posted last night about that - and a couple of people commented here too. I think it's definitely worth making softies to be distributed down the track, once things have settled down a bit, and agencies are accepting that kind of thing. I think they'll be warmly received. But it's really important to try and help with the immediate issues that people are facing too. Donate money. Or donate blood. Or donate your time. You can do that here.
The link is to the Red Cross. My mother worked for them at the time of Australia’s previous worst natural disaster, Cyclone Tracy, that hit Darwin in 1974. On Christmas Day, the morning after the cyclone, she woke us up and told us we were would be having lunch without her. We didn’t see much of mum for several weeks. Her usual job was helping to re-unite migrants and refugees who had become separated. She did wait for a phone call. The mass evacuation of Darwin was our own version of these international diasporas.
This is an ongoing emergency with fires still burning out of control and a lot of summer heat to go.