Sunday, 8 February 2009


“The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss.” - Thomas Carlyle

The magnitude of the bushfire tragedy is beginning to hit home, even as we woke up to a cool morning in Melbourne. Yesterday we were aware of several large fires still burning out of control around Melbourne and to the Northeast and East, despite the cool change following the 45˚C temperatures of last Saturday. Although we expected the cool change to help in fighting the fires, the immensity of the blazes and the tinder-dry state of the bushland has made the fire-fighting situation extremely difficult.

This morning I was listening to the news bulletin on the radio and the death toll was 108 as at 6am, making this the deadliest natural disaster in Victoria’s history. Unfortunately, many people are still missing and the death will continue to rise. At least 750 homes have been completely destroyed and more than 330,000 hectares of bushland burnt out, some of the fires expected to continue burning for weeks ahead. We are hoping now for some decent rain that will help the efforts of the fire crews who have been fighting the blazes heroically.

Fire alarms have been going off incessantly and as I jot this down I can hear them outside my window, here in the City. Fire trucks are going by, and I can only imagine what it must be like in the areas hard hit. The television is showing some truly hellish images and the people who has survived are in a state of shock. Scores of injured and burnt people are being nursed in hospitals across the state and emergency services are being stretched tot heir limit. One of our staff here at the College has lost her house in Kingslake just to the north of Melbourne and we are all rallying around our staff (more of whom will doubtlessly by affected) by starting a special fund to help them in the immediate future. We are also helping the community by organising various activities that members of the public can join and help by donating money and goods.

It is times like these that one realizes that we humans are a big family and we need to help each other out as much as we can. Today it is my turn to help you, tomorrow it may be your turn to help me. As people look upon the burnt our shells of their homes and cars, as ash has replaced the gardens and trees that surrounded their homes, as they take stock of all they have lost, it becomes important to realise what our priorities are, what is truly of value to us. Forget the possessions, the things, even those that are irreplaceable… People and feelings are the only that matters. This is driven deep into our consciousness as we see those people that have lost members of their family, friends, neighbours to the flames.

Human lives lost to the hellish flames remind of us of the importance of the people that surround us. People whom we take for granted on daily basis. A partner that we’ve argued with just yesterday, parents that we haven’t called on the telephone for a few weeks, children that have moved form home and we haven’t seen communicated meaningfully with for a while. Family, friends, those who matter to us. Think of the things that have been left undone, things that have been unsaid, interactions and relationships that are now irretrievably lost to those 108 people now dead and the thousands of survivors around them who will miss them terribly.

This terrible calamity has affected me profoundly and here at work, everyone feels the same way. The talk this morning is of nothing else and we are activating in order to help our fellow workers affected by the fires, but also the community. I am proud to live in a country where this community spirit is still alive and where people still feel strongly about helping one another and contributing to the community in which we all live.

Here are few links that will really make you aware of what we are going through:
Video report, including the PM’s and premier’s visit to the affected areas:

The really mind-numbing news that arsonists may be at work in some of the bushfire sites is one of the worst possible things that I can think of:

A well-known and loved retired newsreader, Brian Naylor and his wife Moiree perished in the flames at Kingslake:

Some photographs of the fires:

ABC News site:

The Australian Red Cross, Bushfires Appeal donation site:

I hope that things in your part of the world are better. Hug your spouse, partner, family members, friends and tell them how much they mean to you. Ring your family and friends who are far from you and tell them how much you love them… We shouldn’t wait for a natural disaster to remind us to do these things…

No comments:

Post a Comment