Wednesday, February 11, 2009

On being in Melbourne

I have been meaning to write for some time now but, frustratingly, almost three weeks after moving into our new home our telephone provider still has not managed to set up our internet connection. I am writing this brief post in a lunch break at work.

We had a lovely time in Europe. Berlin and Turkey were particular highlights.

For now, I just wanted to let you know that I am still around and intend to come back!
Some of you may have seen the coverage about the Victorian bushfires. Though I am a newcomer to Victoria, it is evident that this is a state in shock and mourning. Even for those of us who have not lost family, friends or property, these past few days have been very sobering.

Saturday was the hottest day on record for Victoria - clocking in at 46.4 degrees celsius (116 farenheit). The extreme temperatures fuelled bushfires, the ferocity of which Australia has not seen before. At this stage, the death toll stands at 181 (though this is expected to to rise to as much as 300) and more than 750 homes have been destroyed. It is Australia's worst natural disaster.

There are still 25 fire fronts burning, and fire crews and police have not yet been able to reach the worst affected area. The army has even been called in - there was some amazing footage the other night of armoured vehicles rolling down country streets. And, because we have already had panicked calls from England - no DH is not out there.

We are safe where we our house is. On Saturday night we could see the red glow of the fire over the (not too) distant hills in front of our place. There are water bombing helicopters going over pretty regularly too. Now though, the fires of most concern are in the north of the state. Fire fighting reinforcements have arrived from interstate and I believe there are 35 fire-fighters coming over from the US. The Prime Minister has taken condolence calls from all over the world including the Queen and the US and Russian Presidents.

It is a surreal experience to have a disaster affecting so many around you, and not be able to do anything much. At this stage, I think all that can be done is to pray for those affected and donate money to the Red Cross appeal. A work colleague and I had planned to donate blood today but the Red Cross has been so overwhelmed with donors, that they have asked people to delay doing so until the coming weeks. They reminded us that burns victims will need blood products in their treatment for many months to come - and the blood donations will need to be sustained over that period.

It is indeed a very sad time for Australia.