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article imageUpdate: 65 dead in Australian bushfires, military called in

By Paul Wallis     Feb 8, 2009 in Environment
A stream of those who’ve just been fighting the ferocious bushfires also try to come to grips with devastated towns, lost homes, and the tourists roaming around seeing the sights. 65 people are dead, and some are unaccounted for at this stage.
The worst fires in Victoria’s recent history are raging around Melbourne’s north east. Even the amount of information being generated is a record. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed, historic towns have been wiped out. The fires are storming around the south east of the country.
The defence force was called in when the emergency services got overloaded and sheer fatigue from not only the fires but the murderous 47C heat. Infrastructure like power lines has been destroyed, and some areas are without power. At least one primary school was also destroyed. The little town of Maryville was practically wiped off the map.
Tornado victims will be able to identify with the pictures coming out of the areas. The ground is incinerated, the buildings look like they’ve been flattened.
An earlier article from The Sydney Morning Herald emphasizes the fears prior to discovering the toll the fires have taken. At that point, the first information was coming out, and injured firefighters were being sent to hospital. The police told people not to go sightseeing.
A fire was burning near the main power station for Melbourne at Loy Yang, but soon after the horror of the toll swamped other news.
The ABC has been doing live coverage of the fires. It’s horrifying. One couple went out to do their shopping and came back to find their house gone. Another group of people had to flee from a fire which they couldn’t even hear or smell.
4500 firefighters, including those from other states, are fighting the fires. Just to simplify matters, two big fires have amalgamated. Lightning strikes are now being reported, which adds further problems with the dry bush being one huge fire hazard.
There’s so much news it’s difficult to keep up with it. A zoo was evacuated. The power station is now back in the news, as firefighters try to protect it. The hospitals are on disaster alert, using methods they learned during the Bali bombings. A national appeal was launched by the Federal and Victorian governments.
While I was writing this, the death toll went up to 66.
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