9 Feb 2009, Comments (17)


Author: Helen

Not saying much about anything here at the moment, because the situation in my State is too awful for words. The death toll is 131 at the time of posting. They haven’t found all the bodies.
Two towns, Kinglake and Marysville, both completely gone. Now Strathewen as well.

From the newspaper letters page today:

Australia’s real heroes don’t hit or kick or whack balls around, wear Speedos or strum guitars, all for great rewards. They drive fire trucks, wield hoses and risk their lives, for nothing.

Can I say an a-f**ckin’ men to that.

WHITTLESEA, Australia (AFP) – Huddled under a dampened blanket as Australia’s deadly bushfires roared over her head “like a jet engine”, Sonja Parkinson was convinced she and infant son Sam would die.
Instead, the flimsy shelter saved them from the inferno that claimed at least 32 lives in their town of Kinglake, one of many stories of heroism and miraculous escapes to emerge from the country’s worst fire disaster.
“I thought we were going to die,” she told the Australian newspaper, explaining how she ran for her life as her home was engulfed.
“The two front rooms were ablaze. I couldn’t see. It was black. We went down to the creek and we hid,” she said.
A shallow puddle proved their salvation, as Parkinson doused a blanket and awaited their fate.
“This little one was so brave under the blanket,” she said.
“We had a blanket over us in the creek and we huddled with the dog and two neighbours and two lyrebirds.
“It was shallow, a summer creek, but there was just enough water, a puddle. We sat in a muddy puddle under a wet blanket and the fire went through us.”
Further to the east near Healesville, teenager Rhys Sund used a tiny tractor and trailer to save his sister Rhiannon and a group of frightened women and children from an isolated farmhouse in the path of the firestorm.

“I’m so proud of the young bloke,” the 19-year-old’s father Mark told Melbourne’s Age newspaper. “He cut down the fences in his way and went in.
“Rhys hasn’t been to bed yet. He’s been fighting the fire all night.”

Christopher Harvey from Kinglake says the fire that hit the area was an “inferno”.
“There was no chance of fighting or taking care of this fire.
“Everybody’s gone. Everybody’s gone. Everybody. Their houses are gone. This is our house, this is it. They’re all dead in the houses there. Everybody’s dead.”

Red Cross – give them yer money and yer blood. As Lauredhel points out, don’t use the official DSE or CFA fire notification sites, so as to keep the traffic there down.

Update 10/2/2008:

The terrible outfall from the bushfires continues and there are lots of fantastic projects and acts of generosity going on right now. One I will mention is that on FRIDAY (13th) Coles will donate the profits of the day to bushfire relief. So everyone save up your grocery shopping and DO IT THEN. Pass the word!

(Via Eglantine’s Cake, who is in the thick of it at St Andrews.)

Comments (17)

  • Deborah says:

    It has been awful, and I haven’t found the courage to read many of the stories. I will try to, to bear witness to people’s suffering. I feel so wretched for the people who have lost so much, in such a terrifying way.

  • Kath Lockett says:

    I feel the same way; too afraid to watch the news right now because the death toll keeps rising and the last I saw was a distraught father muttering, “I’ve lost two of my kids….”

    I’ve got the same link to Red Cross on my blog too. It was kind of gratifying to go to the site, try to donate and see that the traffic shut me out. The volume must be huge, so I’ll keep trying and if they’d let me give my blood (it’s always ‘no’ because I lived in the UK for a couple of years, have a pesky little brain tumour and an even littler tattoo) I would.

  • Oz Ozzie says:

    Amen about the CFA volunteers.

  • Hattie says:

    What a horrible shock; nothing can withstand a firestorm. My home town of Berkeley in California was devastated by a firestorm in 1991 and 25 people died. These beautiful dry places burn up on a regular basis, but it seems that global warming is making the situation worse.

  • Helen says:

    Hattie, there are also beautiful wet places in Victoria, but they are still being logged.
    !!! 🙁
    Being from California, you know about eucalypts.
    More than a firestorm, a firebomb.
    I think SE Australians are beginning to rethink the dream of a home among the gum trees. I know I am.
    Kath – the Blood bank is always chasing me because I’m type O and my tatt is old old old. Couldn’t get an appointment today – they took my number and said they’d call back. That’s good sign innit.
    Deborah, sorry for succumbing to the temptation to poke your fish that you keep in that there barrel with a stick. 😉 As she said, I am the very worst. I can’t deny it.
    Ozzie, if you could just convince bloody Fairfax to stop doing it: the “heroes” schtick I mean.

  • Oz Ozzie says:

    Yeah, Helen, I’ll just get onto the line, the CEO will surely listen to me… though maybe he wouldn’t listen to me since I don’t contribute to his revenue stream at all.

  • antikva says:

    Thanks for your visit to find out if we are ok Helen. It was a bit scary on Saturday [ ok,, a LOT!] but we were lucky and the wind change at the same time meant it blew the other way and we were safe. It’s heartbreaking seeing all the people around town who’ve lost everything and loved one’s 🙁 The poor volunteers are just exhausted and we still have spot fires that they have to put out, the Rescue Shelter up the road was packed, I just can’t watch the news anymore.
    I just never knew we could be at risk here, didn’t even cross my mind.

  • Amagny says:

    Amen. Shit, unbelievable.

  • Hattie says:

    The original settlers cut down the redwoods in the Berkeley-Oakland hills and replanted in eucalyptus. They were greedy but not too clever.

  • I sat glued to 774 from 5.30 on Sunday morning til falling asleep on monday night. Somehow, though listening to people’s stories is harrowing it feels less ghoulish than when they have a camera shoved in their face. What I did see on the TV news was recycled, the same vision both nights, not identifying the locations they were showing behind their commentary and generally confusing. But radio is fabulous and in some cases saved lives. Toughened old radio hands were crying with empathy.

    As part of the grief process people often need to tell their stories repeatedly (there’s even a study which gives it a number – in the 100’s). We can’t feel their pain but we can witness it, donate money/blood (though the blood banks blanket ban on taking blood from gay men and a whole heap of other sexual exclusions, is ludicrous) and realize that long after the news crews have gone home, the true devastation is going to hit these people. Maybe Melbourne people can offer time and resources to actually help people rebuild when the time comes and other such things?

  • Deborah says:

    Deborah, sorry for succumbing to the temptation to poke your fish that you keep in that there barrel with a stick.

    Yeah… that’s precisely why I backed off. Fish and barrels, that is. But very happy to have your input, and fp has made a very strong comment too. I suspect we’re going to get roasted in her next monthly column.

    As for the bush fires, I’ve started to try to watch and listen and read people’s stories. I can do the practical help things, but it is good to bear witness too.

  • […] More on the dug-outs at the Black Friday site; my friends Helen and Armagnac have more, which will take you onward. […]

  • Fignatz says:

    another outspoken female’s comment about the TV news coverage is right. I live just outside Brisbane, and last night Channel 7 Brisbane had our local anchorwoman on the ground in Victoria, getting in the way and asking survivors stupid questions like: “How do you feel?”. Sure, as a human being concerned about others, I want to know what’s happening, but I don’t want to feel dirty from the experience.

  • ThirdCat says:

    All of my news is from the internet – mostly The Age and the ABC website…it’s true what AOF says, realising the true awfulness of it all is still to come. If listening to their stories helps, then that’s what I’ll do. It still doesn’t seem like much though.

  • […] Several others have urged blood donations if you’re local – burns victims need lots of blood products. […]

  • Helen says:

    Since I rang the blood bank on Monday, I haven’t been able to even get in the queue. They have taken my name and number to get back to me (think I’ll ring them again anyway). That is very heartening.

  • […] And Guy Beres, Pavlov’s Cat, Helen at Cast Iron Balcony, Bruce at Thinker’s Podium, Tim Blair and the Hoydens all have posts too. […]

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