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Thread: Australia Fires

  1. #1
    MembersZone Subscriber MalahatTwo7's Avatar
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    Unhappy Australia Fires

    WOW! is all I can say about this. I've been hearing bits and pieces on the radio, but WOW all the same.

    'Everybody's gone. Everybody's dead'

    Australian bushfires kill 171, dozens missing

    By Simone Giuliani, ReutersFebruary 9, 2009 7:01 AM

    WHITTLESEA, Australia - Weary firefighters and rescuers pulled the remains of dozens of people from charred buildings on Monday as the toll from Australia's deadliest bushfires rose to 171, police said.

    "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.

    A Victoria state police spokesman told Reuters by telephone late on Monday the toll had risen to 171 from about 135 hours earlier. He said the toll would almost certainly rise further.

    Police believe some of the fires, which razed rural towns near the country's second biggest city, Melbourne, were deliberately lit and declared one devastated town a crime scene.

    "There are no words to describe it other than mass murder," Prime Minister Kevin Rudd earlier told local television. "These numbers (of dead) are numbing."

    The bushfires are the country's worst natural disaster in more than a century, and will put pressure on Rudd to deliver a broad new climate policy.

    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 inferno was as tall as a four-storey building at one stage and was sparking spot fires 40 km (25 miles) ahead of itself as the strong winds blew hot embers in its path.

    "It's going to look like Hiroshima, I tell you. It's going to look like a nuclear bomb. There are animals dead all over the road," said Harvey.

    More than 750 houses were destroyed and some 78 people, with serious burns and injuries, are in hospital.

    Many patients had burns to more than 30 per cent of their bodies and some injuries were worse than the Bali bombings in 2002, said one doctor at a hospital emergency department.

    In Canberra, lawmakers fought back tears as they suspended parliament for the day after expressing condolences to the victims on behalf of the stunned nation.

    "It is the beauty and the wonder of our country," National Party leader Warren Truss said. "It can also be harsh and cruel. How can these idyllic landscapes also become killing fields?"

    Wildfires are a natural annual event in Australia, but this year a combination of scorching weather, drought and tinder-dry bush has created prime conditions.

    The fires, and major floods in Queensland state in the north, will put pressure on Rudd, who is due to deliver a new climate policy in May. Green politicians are citing the extreme weather to back a tougher climate policy. 1/8ID:nSP292660 3/8

    Adding to the nation's grief, authorities in northern Queensland searched unsuccessfully for a five-year-old boy who they believe was killed by a crocodile when he chased his pet dog into the flooded Daintree River.

    Scientists say Australia, with its harsh environment, is set to be one of the nations most affected by climate change.

    "Continued increases in greenhouse gases will lead to further warming and drier conditions in southern Australia, so the (fire) risks are likely to slightly worsen," said Kevin Hennessy at the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Centre (CSIRO).

    The Victorian bushfire tragedy is the worst natural disaster in Australia in 110 years. In 1899, Cyclone Mahina struck Australia's northern Cape York, killing more than 400.

    Thousands of firefighters continued to battle the main fires and scores of other blazes across Victoria on Monday, as well as fires in neighbouring New South Wales state.

    While cooler, calmer conditions helped firefighters, 10 major fires remained out of control in Victoria. But the week-long heatwave that triggered the inferno was over.

    The fires burnt out more than 330,000 ha (815,000 acres) of mostly bushland in Victoria, but a number of vineyards in the Yarra Valley were also destroyed. The Insurance Council of Australia said it was too early to estimate the bill.

    The small town of Marysville was sealed off by police as forensic scientists searched through the rubble for evidence.

    As dawn broke in the town of Whittlesea, near Kinglake, shocked residents wandered the streets, some crying, searching for loved ones still missing.

    "The last anyone saw of them, the kids were running in the house, they were blocked in the house," cried Sam Gents, who had not heard from his wife Tina and three children, aged 6, 13 and 15, since the fire swept through Kinglake.

    "If they let me up the mountain I know where to go (to try and find them)," Gents sobbed. Police sealed off Kinglake, where at least 35 died, because bodies were still being recovered.

    Handwritten notes pinned to a board in the Whittlesea evacuation centre told the same sad story, with desperate pleas from people for missing family and friends to contact them.

    Rudd said it would take years to rebuild the devastated towns and has announced a A$10 million ($6.8 million) aid package. He has also called in the army to help erect emergency shelter.

    The previous worst bushfire tragedy in Australia was in 1983, when 75 people were killed.

    © Copyright (c) Reuters

    Best wishes to the crews involved, and deep condolences to those who have lost family.
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    Forum Member CdnFD24's Avatar
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    "You see things and you ask, 'Why'? I dream of things that never were and I say, 'Why not'?

    "I used to work in a fire hydrant factory. You couldn't park anywhere near the place."

    "When you are kind to someone in trouble, you hope they'll remember and be kind to someone else. And it'll become like a wildfire."

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    Forum Member firecat1's Avatar
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    I've pm'd a couple of folks that live kinda near there and they said it's just heartbreaking. My thoughts and prayers go out to all involved.

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    MembersZone Subscriber MalahatTwo7's Avatar
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    MELBOURNE - Two people have been arrested in connection with Australia’s deadly wildfires after they were reported to have been behaving suspiciously, police said Thursday.

    Police did not specify that the arrests were connected to arson, which has been blamed for at least one inferno that killed more than 20 people.

    Detectives had responded to a call from the public about the suspicious behaviour in the north of Victoria state, a statement said.

    "The investigation is in its initial stages. Two people are assisting police with inquiries."

    Asked whether the arrests involved arson or looting, which has also been reported in the aftermath of the fires, a police spokeswoman told AFP she could provide no further details.

    At least 181 people died as a swarm of wildfires raced across the southeast state of Victoria during a heatwave last weekend and the toll is expected to rise as more bodies are found in charred homes and villages.

    Victoria’s Police Commissioner Christine Nixon said earlier Thursday that at least one case of arson had been confirmed and others were suspected.

    "We’re sure that the fire in Churchill was deliberately lit," Nixon said, referring to a fire in which 21 people died.

    "And we have now been given some information that makes us suspicious about the Marysville fire," she said.

    Marysville, a quaint hamlet of some 500 people was flattened in the fire and officials have warned that the death toll of 15 could rise to 100 as a grim search for bodies continues through the charred ruins.

    © Copyright (c) AFP

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    Forum Member Rescue101's Avatar
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    Truly a tragedy,not only in terms of lives and property lost but also the thousands of animals killed or injured.Like that poor little kola that eagerly accepted a drink from fire crews. Pretty badly burned in the paws the lil' critter was rescued and is now a celebrity of sorts. The conditions are terrible with little relief in sight. My thoughts and prayers are with the crews who are working against overwhelming odds.

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    My cross shift is a retired Melbourne FF. Hes gone home early to help out. I had an e mail from him, he says some areas are like a war zone, absolutely nothing left standing. I guess some of the tales of efforts put forward by the people on the brigades down there are above even heroism. My thoughts and prayers to everyone involved.

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    MembersZone Subscriber MalahatTwo7's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    B.C. firefighters heading to Australia

    Times ColonistFebruary 15, 2009

    A B.C. team of fire specialists leaves for Australia early this week to help in the country's ongoing battle against devastating wildfires.

    Almost 180 people have died and more than 800 homes have been destroyed in wildfires in the southern Australian state of Victoria, where high temperatures, drought and windstorms have combined to fuel the flames.

    The nine-person B.C. team, which includes experts in planning, operations and fire behaviour, leaves Tuesday and will be in Australia for about a month.

    B.C. also sent assistance to Victoria in January 2007, when 52 firefighters travelled there to help with fires that burned close to one million hectares.

    © Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

  8. #8
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Unhappy Hey Rick??...........

    Been able to contact anyone you/we know down there??
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    Forum Member Rescue101's Avatar
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    Harve,We heard from Darren(pumper8032). He's OK, says working conditions could be better.They're gaining,slowly. T.C.

  10. #10
    MembersZone Subscriber MalahatTwo7's Avatar
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    Saw this on the front page of FH too. Very bad/sad news this is.

    Australia wildfire death toll reaches 200
    By KRISTEN GELINEAU, Associated Press Writer

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009 (02-17) 03:17 PST MELBOURNE, Australia (AP)

    The confirmed death toll from Australia's deadly wildfires reached the grim milestone of 200 Tuesday, and a police official said some bodies reduced to ash in the inferno would never be identified.

    Investigators confirmed 11 additional people had died in one of more than 400 fires that raged across southern Victoria state on Feb. 7, destroying more than 1,800 homes and scorching more than 1,500 square miles (3,900 square kilometers) of farms, forests and towns.

    In a statement, Victoria police said the newest confirmed deaths occurred in a fire that razed the town of Kinglake and surrounding areas. Police spokesman Marty Beveridge said the death count would go higher as more remains are identified.

    The sobering news came as a firefighter was killed Tuesday evening when a tree branch fell on his car during a recovery effort in the devastated village of Marysville, police said. The man died at the scene, Victoria Police spokeswoman Karla Dennis said in a statement.

    Meanwhile, a senior police commander said some of the victims of the deadly blazes will likely never be identified because the fires were so intense their bodies were cremated.

    Ten days after the disaster, police say they have not been able to give a definitive death toll because of the difficulty in finding and identifying remains.

    In some cases, all that is left of the victims is ash, police Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe told The Associated Press.

    "Fire does terrible damage to bodies and the identification process is going to be a lengthy process and it's going to require scientific examination," Walshe said. "In some cases it will be within a few weeks ... in other cases it may well be we're unable to be definitive about the identity."

    Where there is only ash, victim identification crews rely on other clues like jewelry found in the ruins to help attach names to the remains, Walshe said.

    He declined to say how many bodies may still be in the disaster zone. He said police believed they had cleared all bodies from burned open areas, and were now sifting through ruined homes.

    Police suspect at least two of the fires were deliberately set, and have charged one man with arson causing death and lighting a wildfire. Brendan Sokaluk, 39, faces a maximum sentence of 25 years on the first charge and 15 years on the second. He is being held in protective custody to prevent revenge attacks against him.

    On Monday, thousands of people on the social networking site Facebook joined vigilante groups that called for Sokaluk's death. By Tuesday, they had been taken down, though new ones popped up in their place.

    Sokaluk's MySpace profile, in which he painted himself as a lonely, love-starved bachelor, was also deleted Tuesday. On his profile, he wrote in disparaging terms of a woman named "Alexandra."

    On Tuesday, Alexandra's mother released a statement to the media through the Victoria police saying her family has been harassed since the link between Alexandra and Sokaluk became public. The woman, who police refused to identify, said her daughter had a three-month relationship with Sokaluk that ended a year ago.

    Alexandra, shown on her MySpace profile wearing a Country Fire Authority uniform, is not a member of the organization but has helped raise money for it, her mother said.

    The police declined to reveal Alexandra's last name or any other details.

    MySpace's Australian director of Safety, David Batch, said the Web site was working with police and had suspended Sokaluk's profile pending the outcome of the investigation.

    Meanwhile, a class-action lawsuit was filed against electricity supplier SP AusNet alleging that defective power lines caused losses and damage in connection with one of the fires.

    SP AusNet, which is 51 percent-owned by Singapore Power Group, which runs a 6.3 billion Australian dollar ($4 billion) gas and power network in southeast Australia that is one of the country's largest, vowed to fight the claim.

    A government inquiry into the fire should be concluded first, the company contends.

    "SP AusNet believes the claim is both premature and inappropriate," the company said Tuesday in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange. "However, SP AusNet will vigorously defend the claim."

    The inquiry, intended to investigate the fire, its causes, the preparedness of residents and emergency services responses, will deliver an initial report on Aug. 17.

    And maybe at least paritally to be blamed on "The Lowest Bidder" syndrome.

  11. #11
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    Well I hate to be the one to announce it, but I regret to inform the group that a fellow brother from the ACT fire brigade has been killed in the line of duty.
    A 47 yr old firefighter from the ACT Fire Brigade that was sent to help the Victorians was killed by a falling tree as he was connecting a line to the pump, they had a paramedic traveling with them but the brother was unable to be saved. So sad that we got this far without any deaths, my sympathy to the family.

    As an update, they are getting on top of the fires now, and we have a group of US firefighters over here now, thanks for the help guys !

    UPDATE

    THE wife of a firefighter who died battling the Victoria fires says he was repaying a debt to those who helped fight the 2003 Canberra bushfires.
    Celia Balfour said her husband, David Balfour, 47, loved the fire brigade and the ACT fire brigade family with whom he worked for 11 years.

    "David served with distinction in the January 2003 Canberra fire disaster and felt that his deployment to Victoria was repaying a debt of honour to those who had come to our community's aid after our experience with tragedy," Ms Balfour said in a statement.

    "The family and I are accepting of the fact that he was doing the best job he could to give back to the community for his fortunate life."

    Ms Balfour said her husband, to whom she was married for 20 years, was her soul mate and anchor.

    "He gave us direction as a family and he was very easygoing with simple needs. A good cup of Earl Grey tea, mostly."

    David is survived by Celia and their three children aged 14, 13 and 10.
    Last edited by pumper8032; 02-17-2009 at 11:19 PM.

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