The fires in Victoria are still burning though some overnight rain has given the firefighters some chance of finally gaining a measure of control over the course of the twenty-one blazes they are currently dealing with. Currently no more homes are under threat, as far as we’re aware but of course the clean-up has yet to be properly begun and that will be when the true death toll will start be assessed.
We’re expecting that the human death toll might reach 300, whilst the deaths amongst animal life runs into millions. It will be many years before the environment fully recovers, in fact there are suggestions that it might take fifty years for the animal life to recolonise the burned areas, despite the fact that within a few years there will be little sign it was ever ablaze.
The scale of the disaster has affected people around the world and so far there has been some $48 million in donations to help with the recovery. Of course this will be of little use to those whose entire families have been wiped out, but for the survivors it might at least relieve the immediate pressure of how to cope without home or belongings.
The ‘shock and awe’ of the disaster has begun to recede as the horrible reality of the situation has finally settled and people are beginning to look around trying to isolate reasons for the destruction to have been on so massive a scale. After all, people were living in Australia for 40,000 years before Europeans arrived and they seemed to co-exist with the land fairly comfortably. It’s 200+ years since Europeans arrived and even after that length of time you’d think we would have arrived at some sort of accommodation with the environment such that we understand the dangers and take real measures to protect ourselves from them. So what went wrong?
This is a question I’ll address in another post, but here I’ll just say that recriminations and infighting have already begun as those who might share in the responsibility try to shift the focus for ‘blame’ from themselves onto others. It’s an unedifying spectacle and in the long term counter productive. We really need these people to forget the shortcomings of themselves and their organisations and sit down together to establish what might have been been done better and set in place action plans that ensure this never happens again.
I admit that with human nature being what it is, this is likely to be a futile hope. Nearly 90 people died on ‘Ash Wednesday‘ in February 1983 and from reading the histories of that disaster it seems few lessons were learned. No doubt history will repeat itself again before real action is taken.