Australia is burning: six million hectares to date have been devastated and are expected to burn for months. It is heart breaking. Some moments are apocalyptic. We are experiencing extremes of weather: 46 degrees one day with desiccating northerly winds, down to 13 degrees the next, brought about by cold south westerly changes. These frequent and violent changes fan the fires and take them to new regions, merging blazes, intensifying them, exacerbating them. It defies comprehension and leaves a staggering environmental toll.
We don’t know what to think, what to do, where to go! For the next few weeks, we are staying put in Williamstown, near Melbourne, attending to boat and medical issues, remaining where we are safe and not a burden on anyone. There is nowhere for us to safely go at present. Even with a radar, the coast is hazardous with thick eerie smoke blocking visibility and with appalling air quality. It may be like this for many weeks.
But we are lucky compared to those in the north east of Victoria and on the whole east coast of the country. Some were evacuated, many have fled to safer areas, some don’t have a home to get back to. Our East Gippsland and southern NSW friends described their experience: there is no power, red orange skies are all over, black soot falls, intense heat follows, darkness comes in the middle of the day, then the sight of twisted or melted metal, hot burning embers falling, the roar of galloping fires, it is like Armageddon. Entire towns have been flattened as fires snaked through bushland, across highways and up mountains. In New South Wales and Victoria, the most populous states in the country, people tried to outrun the blaze and highways were clogged with cars.
In major cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne, dense smoke has descended over metropolitan areas like a blanket. Some regions of the country recorded air quality measurements 20 times above the hazardous level.
When you see the fire map of Australia, when you realise the intensity and scale of the catastrophic fires ravaging the country, when you hear the countless stories of displaced people, destroyed communities and livelihoods, the millions of animals which have perished, you can’t help but be horrified.
What can we do?
We have celebrated the wonders of the reef, the beauty of the bush, but it is not enough to love this country when the sun is shining and all is well. Now is time to help.
A number of organisations and volunteer services are aiding in the firefighting and recovery efforts for affected communities. Whether you want to help the firefighting organisations, wildlife or just provide somewhere to sleep, here are links and information below:
- Australia’s Red Cross Disaster relief and recovery fund helps support evacuation centers and recovery programs for the affected communities
- The NSW Rural Fire Service has a donation page to support the firefighting efforts in New South Wales
- The Country Fire Authority is the state of Victoria’s rural firefighting service and you can donate directly here.
- The Salvation Army has a disaster appeal donations page set up to deliver support to local communities affected by the blazes.
- The Victorian Bushfire Appeal is where state premier Daniel Andrews is suggesting to donate. The appeal directs money to communities in need, giving directly to those affected by the fires.
- The RSPCA bushfire appeal is used to protect the pets, livestock and wildlife affected by bushfires.
- WIRES is an organization committed to wildlife in Australia, helping evacuate animals from disaster zones and care for them.
Every little bit help. But please send donations rather than physical goods.