Image from The Age, a couple of days ago
I want to write something about the fires here in Victoria, but I don’t know where to begin.
I mainly want to let you know that none of my family or personal friends are directly affected – so at least I am doing that.
My friend Kelly has also done a post about the fires: Victoria Burns and a Nation Weeps.
I have been feeling so overwhelmed by the tragedy that I am not functioning very well – mainly just depressed and distracted, I suppose. The whole thing has come on top of immense heat waves and for me, dental issues that have involved a lot of pain but are being resolved now. I wasn’t in a really great space before it happened, is what I am trying to say.
I live in the city of Melbourne, which is the capital of the state of Victoria. We live in an almost-inner suburb, well away from any bush or risk from bushfires. Melbourne’s population is about 3.8 million people, and it is fairly famous for its “suburban sprawl”—the suburbs stretch on and on forever.
Last Saturday, the day the fires broke out, Melbourne had its hottest day since records began in the early 1850s. It got to 46.4 C (115.5 F), and it was even hotter in some places outside the city. The previous week we had several days of extreme heatwave as well, and there hasn’t been any rain for ages.
I want to stress that all this is not normal! Victoria has a pleasant, temperate climate—it has its hot spells and cold spells, but is generally easy to live in.
On Saturday the heat was accompanied by gale-force winds across the state, which gives extreme fire danger. Warnings were put out, sport and horse races were cancelled, the governnent said not to go out unless you really had to. Frank (my partner) and I stayed home—we were not going anywhere.
By Sunday morning the news reports were coming in about the fires and the death and destruction they had brought. I tweeted the following on Twitter, at about 1 p.m:
“Heartbreak here in Victoria – state still on fire – many dead or lost homes”
At that time they were saying there were 35, then 50 dead—I was sitting there looking at The Age website, and the page reloaded and it said “65 dead”. I couldn’t believe it. There were reports of burnt-out cars everywhere with human remains in them, and large burnt-out areas that hadn’t been searched yet.
We also discovered a fire a few kilometres away from my mother’s place in Central Victoria had destroyed homes—we only learned a day or so later there was one death and 57 homes lost. I felt like there was a big black hole in my heart. I went up to spend some time with Mum, and as I write this on Wednesday, I have just returned to Melbourne.
Reporting the fires
By now the horrific stories from survivors are filling the newspapers. I don’t normally read the newspapers or watch TV, but I did both while staying at Mum’s. I do read The Age website, but the stories are much more graphic on the telly and in the Herald Sun (Melbourne’s tabloid newspaper).
The worst stories are the ones about people who had to flee and leave others behind, people losing family members, the horrific injuries, and pets and other animals that didn’t survive.
I thought the reporting on the telly has been fairly sensitive for a change, and not as nausiatingly intrusive as it can be—maybe the situation is so grave that the media don’t need to go for that extra “shock value”, like they usually do.
Many of the fires are thought to have been deliberately lit. The tabloid newspapers make more of an issue of this than other news services, and I suspect from what people are saying online that news services overseas are emphasising this.
While it’s awful that people do this, I don’t personally think it is as prominant an issue as it might seem—simply because the conditions that day were so extreme that anything could have started those fires. I was interested to see that Kelly downplayed that side of it too, in her article [update note – see Kelly’s comment below].
As it stands, there are 181 people confirmed dead, and the Coroner is preparing for 300 – there are many people still missing. The fires are still burning—firefighters are struggling to stop two large fires from joining together at the moment.
Here are some websites of interest:
The Age – Melbourne’s quality newspaper
The Herald Sun – Melbourne’s tabloid newspaper
Australian Red Cross bushfire appeal
ProBlogger’s post about fires fundraiser
* * *
Rob, thanks for writing this. You’ve gone into so much more detail than I and that’s a great thing for helping people understand our situation. I found it so hard to write anything at all and so I completely understand you saying you feel disoriented. Funny, I had major dental work done last week too which caused me a lot of discomfort and has probably also added to my vulnerable state of mind.
I’ve avoided the tv news a lot as the internet is almost more than I can cope with. Every time I catch a snippet of them interviewing a victim, I cry. I just can’t process how these people must feel.
I explained in my comments section that I didn’t talk about the arsonists because I don’t want to put my energy there. People are suffering, and talking about the evil that men do does not help them. Anyone who has contributed, caused or gained from this tragedy will get their reckoning in one way or another. The universe always equals out.
Take care of yourself and I hope to get down there for a visit in the next 3 months, so we will definitely see each other.
Hi Robin, 🙁
I know it hurts. A couple of years ago we had terrible fires in our island too. This one is intentional, the culprit is in prison, for a while the most hated man in the island.
Maybe it’s time we stop and do something. If I were in government I’d probably set up a fast response disaster unit that could deploy anywhere in the world. The military do this regularly, and it seems no national government can cope with everything on its own.
On the other hand, the more practical thing, is to go and raise awareness about our fragile planet. Even if we are that mean and selfish to try to, it is obvious no species can survive alone, not even us.
Thanks for filling us in on the situation. I’m so sorry for all of the loss.
If there’s anyway you think I can help let me know. Where would be the best place to send a donation? Is there a charity where 100% of the money goes directly to help?
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You must be feeling so sad and worried, with all that loss for you and your neighbors and fellow citizens. The conditions you described beforehand are ones I’ve never experienced or heard of, except maybe in the Arizona desert. Everything was in place for a huge fire to burn well. Thanks for letting us know what’s going on, beyond what we hear from our media here.
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Thank you for this post, Robin. I’m relieved to know you and your loved ones are OK. I’m so sorry about all of this. I’ve been following the news reports and it’s just awful.
@Kelly – I think I was on automatic pilot and wrote it fairly quickly – I find it easiest to explain something. That’s amazing you were having dental issues too – I’ve been through a whole event over it – a story for another time. I like your take on the arsonists issue, and I’ve got to the stage now where I don’t want to spend much time looking at news. Keep well! – looking forward to seeing you when you come down.
@Miguel – The governments here are definitely looking at how they can improve things, and climate change has to be part of the talks, too. That was interesting to hear about the fires on your island.
@Tess – Thank for your support! The Red Cross I linked to at the end of the post would be the best place to donate.
@Dot – Yes it was extreme – not our usual weather. Thanks for your moral support!
@Vered – thanks for your support and concern too, Vered. It’s really nice to know so many people from overseas are thinking of the people affected by the fires.
Robin 🙂 Help yourself to feel good so you in turn can help others.
Best wishes – fellow Aussie
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Robin, thank you for the update. Know that my heart goes out to you and all your fellow countrymen during this time. And may safety remain with you, and may a sense of normalcy come soon. And know that you’re in my thoughts during all of this.
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@Ribbon – yes I agree – we need to look after ourselves, and thanks for the good wishes! (Ribbon – I still can’t comment on your blog)
@Lance – thanks Lance for your heartfelt wishes! We actually are feeling better – Frank has driven off to a sound equipment sale with a gleam in his eye, and I am doing my tax today – can’t get much more normal than that! It seems surreal that there is so much loss only an hour’s drive away from here, both human and the towns and land – those areas are part of our culture (I lived in one of them for 4 years, and some have been holiday locations for generations).
I heard about the disaster from another Oz blogger. Just Awful and my heart goes out to everyone, I can’t imagine the feeling of loss for everything.
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I don’t know what to say apart from I’m glad you and your family are safe. It’s such a tragedy. Hope you found writing about it at least a little therapeutic, though the hurt will stay for a long time for many people. Take care.
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Wow Robin I don’t know what to say. I don’t listen to the news, so I just barely caught through a headline here and there what was going on, but feel so much more in tuned to the situation given your information here.
May the people whose life has been touched by this experience know the love and peace that is possible even at what seem the worst of times. May their spirits not give up and know that there is always new life in every new moment that enters our life and we can choose to go with it or against it.
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I’m glad to know that my friends from Australia are doing fine. It must be tough for you and Frank since you are living near the area of the tragedy. I’ve been to Melbourne myself years ago. In fact, my brother and cousins studied there. I don’t remember it being so hot or was ever told that the temperatures would get that hot.
I’m glad that you wrote about it here. I prefer to read an account from someone I know.
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Hi Robin, I am from Melbourne and felt so bad about those people who lost everything to the fire. I really do not understand the psychology of those who started that fire. How can they do such a thing? Well I have no answer. – Sudipta
this is unbelievable It got to 46.4 C (115.5 F). I can’t imagine and you say that’s not unusual? I didn’t know Aust. got that hot. like everyone else, i’m glad you and yours are well. it’s hard not to feel bad for the people who were effected and the animals as well. heartbreaking to see the video and pictures. the news always chokes me up and i just can’t.
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Man this sucks, it’s not like that where i live.
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Thanks Jannie, Daphne, Evita, Evelyn, Sudipta, Natural and Germz – for visiting and for leaving your messages of support for myself those affected.
It’s the following Monday morning as I write this, and I don’t want to keep writing updates of the figures all the time. But I’ll mention here that the human toll has not been updated since last Wednesday, as the police are waiting for more definite information, so is still 181 but likely to be much higher. Also, they are now saying there are around 1800 homes lost and 7000 people displaced (many homes can’t be lived in).
Hi Robin. Thank you for posting this. I’ve been wondering how you are doing. My heart goes out to the people and families who’ve suffered loss of life. I just can’t imagine having to flee and leave anyone behind — unimaginable. If you want to chat, don’t hesitate to “call”. I have not had Skype turned on lately. But if I’m here I have my email on and would get your message — then Skype would come on. Hugs to you and your family.
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Hi Robin – Sorry. I had no idea that this had happened, as I’ve not been reading the news, twitter, or anything else. How awful. And it’s sounding like this may not all have been caused by the weather – but by people – deliberately. I don’t understand how people could do such a thing.
Hi Robin: I did hear several times on CNN that arson was suspected in the fires. I’m glad that you’re safe. Does Australia have some sort of government fund to help people who are victims of natural disasters?
I have heard from my Family in AU and am very relieved and helped pack up supplies to go with the firefighters from our State to yours…what an awful situation, but so relieved to know all the folks I know are ok…
Is it not awful when it is arson….You, all of you, are in my prayers
Hi there Davina, Cath, Marelisa and Patricia
Thanks for your visit and comments – it’s lovely ot hear from you. (Mare – the government is giving grants and other funding to those affected, and there is the Red Cross fund as well.)
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Why do i keep crying????
I LOVE AUSTRALIA AND ITS PEOPLE,
Im so so sad right now 🙁 🙁 🙁
Am i the only one whose feeling this way right now ??????
Hi Robin, thanks for your reflections, I wrote something too to myself just to deal with it. Now its early March and it is no longer making headlines. How about keeping up your story with the news of recovery and progress. My partner and I plan to go up this weekend with tools, partner a builder to see what we can do. I just got the flu too, but hell I need to do something practical.
Hi Jamie and Karla – thanks for writing your thoughts. It’s out of the headlines now, mostly, but it’s perhaps not an easy time for the people affected directly. Thanks again for visiting here.