Hell in all its fury

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

I had no intention about blogging today about bushfires but events over the weekend have compelled me. Just outside the city I grew up in, Melbourne, Australia has just experienced the worst bushfire in Australian history. The death toll currently stands at 130 with over 750 homes lost. Some towns have been razed to the ground and, as the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said yesterday “Hell in all its fury has visited the good people of Victoria.”

I am grateful that all my family and friends are, as far as we know, safe and well, but some of images (like this one) brought home just how close this tragedy has come to Melbourne. This view is from Doncaster, the suburb of Melbourne where my sister-in-law lives, and you can see the fires raging on the horizon. These bushfires occurred as Melbourne sweltered under the hottest day on record – it was 115 degrees on Saturday with gale force winds.

I have to reflect that the weather is now so unpredictable – snow in London, 115 degrees in Melbourne, floods in far north Queensland – extremes that are rare but stunning in their impact. I fear with global warming that such freakish weather patterns are only going to get worse as well as continue.

I was in Melbourne when the last bushfires of such magnitude occurred on a day in 1983 that is now remembered as Ash Wednesday. While the bushfires never reached Melbourne, I remember walking into our backyard late that night and smelling the smoke, feeling the ash that was literally raining down on the city. On that day some 47 people died in Victoria – which still pales in comparison to the number lost this weekend. I cannot even post some of the photographs of this weekend’s devastation as they are just too awful to bear. People died without warning in their homes or in their cars fleeing the fires. It all happened so fast that for many there was no way of escaping.
So today’s blog has nothing to do with writing mysteries but is rather a reflection on the fragility of our lives as well as our planet. Whenever a tragedy like this strikes it’s hard not to feel isolated and helpless – even if we lived in Australia I’m sure we would feel the same. I know my sister and brother-in-law (both doctors in hospitals in Melbourne) are no doubt fighting the second ‘front line’ with the injured. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone as they recover from what must have been an unimaginable hell. Even as a writer I could not even begin to describe how it must have felt to have witnessed this and, as fires continue to rage across Victoria and the investigation crews start combing through the ruins, we still do not know the full magnitude of this tragedy.

8 thoughts on “Hell in all its fury

  1. My heart goes out to them. Here in Alaska forest fires are a regular occurance that we deal with every summer. At least some of the year the sky is filled with smoke for several days, even weeks. Its never fun.

  2. With our current low level of winter rainfall, I’m afraid we might be in for the same here in California come summertime. Such an awful thing, hopefully everyone emerges unscathed.

  3. Clare, the news accounts say this tragedy was caused in part by arsonists. Let’s hope that the firefighters can quickly bring it under control and those responsible are just as quickly brought to justice. My thoughts are with your friends and family.

  4. Let’s remember, when discussing the frsgility of the planet, that the planet is not fragile at all; we are. No matter what we do it it, Earth will be around for a long time. Nothing we do can match the cataclysms brought about by meteor strikes and other naturally occurring phenomena.

    Of course, unless we shape up right quick, we won’t be around. But that’s on us. Earth will fine without us.

  5. Michelle – I know I worry about us here in CA too. I also heard that the PM of Australia is calling the arsonists mass murderers and they have called a royal commission into the fire policy they currently have in place -so Joe, hopefully justice will be done at some point. Dana – of course you are totally right! The Earth will be still be here when we’re long gone!

  6. In the wake of such tragedy, I am thoughtful of those who passed and those left behind to mourn.
    God be with all those affected, no matter where they are.
    And Clare, God bless you and your family.
    Thank you for posting this, I don’t watch tv, so I get my news on the internet.

  7. Well Sarah, unofrtunately the ews gets worse and worse as the death toll climbs. I’m hoping the crisis will soon be over but fires are still burning out of control in many areas. Luckily so far everyone we know is fine. I’m keeping those less fortunate than us in my thoughts and prayers.

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