My sister said to us the news cycle feels even more overwhelming than usual today. It about sums it up for me too. Each day the bushfire disaster across Australia gets worse, and then it gets worse again. I’m afraid to check my phone in the morning for fear of seeing the reports of more people dying, homes being lost, and millions more dead animals and forests.
It’s why I’m still awake at almost 02:00, looking at the New South Wales Fires Near Me website. There are 151 fires across the almost 2000 km coastline:
But that’s not the surreal part, for want of a better word. Leaving aside his party’s penchant for coal for a moment, at least the opposition leader is currently out there listening, talking with people, and making regular statements:
Speaking to the media in Sydney this morning. Australia is facing an unprecedented crisis. This is a national emergency. It requires a national response.
And regarding the latest evacuation:
The biggest evacuation in Australian history. Residents in areas the size of European countries are being told to leave. This is not business as usual.
Meanwhile, the actual prime minister was caught on video forcing a woman in a fire ravenged town to shake his hand, once he decided that maybe he should pretend to show some empathy after his Hawaiian holiday. And yet, still no formal coordination of state resources, or extra assistance, or any meaningful words about the disaster at all. As I said back in November 2018:
These aren’t words of confidence, they’re the last gasps of someone utterly out of their depth, grasping for anything to humanise himself.
Bush fire conditions in NSW are expected to worsen over the coming week. Catastrophic fire danger is forecast for Greater Sydney, Greater Hunter and Illawarra Shoalhaven areas. This is the first time since new fire danger ratings were introduced in 2009 that catastrophic fire danger has been forecast for Sydney.
More brave firefighters have died:
The NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) confirms that a NSW RFS volunteer firefighter has died this evening near Jingellic. A further two firefighters on the same truck have suffered burns and are being conveyed to hospital. The firefighters were working on the Green Valley, Talmalmo Fire, approximately 70km east of Albury when it’s believed that the truck rolled when hit by extreme winds associated with the fire.
BBC News has a good summary video. The first clip of fireys in their truck surrounded by hell is terrifying. Don’t watch if you’re sensitive, but helps to show the gravity of the sitation.
And the New York Times now has an article:
The fires have already burned about 14.5 million acres — an area almost as large as West Virginia, more than triple the area destroyed by the 2018 fires in California and six times the size of the 2019 fires in Amazonia. Canberra’s air on New Year’s Day was the most polluted in the world partly because of a plume of fire smoke as wide as Europe.
Scientists estimate that close to half a billion native animals have been killed and fear that some species of animals and plants may have been wiped out completely. Surviving animals are abandoning their young in what is described as mass “starvation events.” At least 18 people are dead and grave fears are held about many more.
All this, and peak fire season is only just beginning.
Anyone Australian who denies climate change at this stage should be charged with treason.