It seems that this is the time to write about the bushfires in Australia. Right now a significant portion of Australia’s south east is burning. To try and explain how much land is burning – well this is something as a lot of people have been trying to do to explain it clearly to people from outside the country. Yesterday I heard this example – the area burning presently is roughly or slightly larger than the size of Belgium.
Compared to the fires in California or elsewhere, Australia’s fires are far far far bigger. For me, it’s very hard to get my head around – I live in Melbourne, and there are fires not THAT far away, but apart from smoke haze across the city on the occasional day, I have not been impacted by the fires. But thousands and thousands and thousands of people have been. It’s genuinely horrific and I would think the worst bushfires in my lifetime, possibly ever in Australia’s known history.
The fires basically started back in October in New South Wales. They still threaten Sydney, and right now have spread through much of eastern Victoria and are not too far from Melbourne either. Lives have been lost, towns have been evacuated, half a BILLION animals have died, and as I type it looks almost certain that the fires will get much worse before they get any better. Australia’s fire fighters, both professional and volunteer, are already stretched to breaking point. Some of them have lost their lives fighting fires, who know what the mental toll will be on them once they have finished.
Bush fires are a fact of life in the Australian summer, but this year it’s started incredibly early and is on a scale never seen before. It is horrific. The country is burning, and there’s no end in sight. Usually, in Victoria, bushfires hit their worst in around February after summer has dried everything out. But in New South Wales especially they have been experiencing drought and had very little rain for a long time now, which meant that the land and vegetation was a lot drier than it normally is. Factor in the hottest December on record, fast winds and it’s a recipe for disaster. When fires moves in this country, it moves so fast people can be trapped in moments. I don’t believe there is a country in the world where bushfires move at the speed they do in Australia. Fires are started in a variety of ways – controlled fires which become out of control, lightning strikes and sadly, fire bugs as some called them, or arsonists, light the fires deliberately. In fact, seven people who are volunteers for fighting fires have been caught this summer as lighters of the fires.
News reports are presently filled with scenes that are purely apocalyptic. It’s scarring the nation in more ways than one. So – for the traveller there are things you need to know.
Know where the fires are, and aren’t. Because travelling to a zone near fire is just not on. Not only are you putting your life in danger, but you’re putting extra strain on resources and services that are already stretched to the limit. Australia is a huge country and there is so much to see and do, and there are a lot of areas not presently affected by fire. Queensland’s coastal areas are mostly good to go right now, Tasmania, Northern Territory and the west.
If you find yourself in a fire affected region as a visitor to this country, check news and updates as frequently as possible. Radio is your best friend here, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s local channels (ABC) have constant updates and information on the state of play. There are whole towns that have been evacuated because they are surrounded by fire. For example, Mallacoota was evacuated by sea. In the words of our government when advising on travelling to different parts of the world – reconsider your need to travel! Honestly, if I was heading this way right now and to the south-east of the country up through NSW, I would be looking at alternatives.
Some statistics for you as it stands at the start of January –
19 people have died
1400 homes destroyed
State of Emergency called in NSW, State of Disaster in Victoria
Fires also badly affecting parts of South Australia, in particular one incredibly horrific blaze on the tourist spot of Kangaroo Island.
There ARE fires also burning in Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania
Air quality has been dramatically affected – especially in Sydney where before Christmas is was considered (in places) 12 times worse than the ‘hazardous’ level. In Canberra they had to cancel a cricket game before of the smoke, the smoke has been bad enough in Melbourne to be clearly visible, affect breathing and allergies, and to make the whole city seem eerie and other worldly.
3.6 million hectares burned in New South Wales (greater than the size of Belgium) and over 780,000 hectares in Victoria. 100,000 hectares in South Australia, 245,000 in Queensland, 1.5 million hectares in Western Australia. Source – Perth Now.
There are a lot of fundraisers going on right now. The Red Cross in Australia provides relief, shelter and support for victims. Their appeal page – Disaster Relief Recovery
Donate to the CFA – the Country Fire Authority in Victoria (they are volunteers)
And to the RFS – The Rural Fire Service in New South Wales (also volunteers)
Thanks for reading today. This post was intended to be informative about the current situation for anyone thinking of visiting NSW and Victoria right now, which is why I haven’t brought our Prime Minister into it (let’s just say he’s not been too popular of late with his responses). Take care always wherever you are. May the Journey Never End.