Author, Consultant, Executive Coach - Helping people and organizations grow into desired results

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Australia burns, Australians unite

Even if you don't read any further in this blog post, I urge you to please support the following worthwhile causes by clicking any/all of the three links below:

2) the Wildlife Victoria Bushfire Appeal or

3) the RSPCA Victoria Bushfire fund
to care for burned and injured animals

This year for Australia, February is the cruellest month. While extreme heat has assaulted the nation, storms and floodwaters have saturated tropical Queensland and parts of NSW. Most tragic and dramatic, however, have been the bushfires raging throughout the country.

The deadliest of those fires have been in the state of Victoria. The bushfire death toll (now at 200 people and still expected to climb) is felt most keenly because the areas worst hit have themselves been primarily small communities dotted across the countryside - many of which have been completely obliterated by the raging firestorms of the past weeks. Over 1800 homes were destroyed, leaving 7000 people homeless. As of this writing, many fires are still burning.

To give some idea of the savage nature of these firestorms: experts have calculated that the storms on February 9th (now simply called Australia's Darkest Day) reached a temperature of 1200 degrees. The areas burnt and energy released from the fires equalled 400 to 500 Hiroshima atomic bombs. Smoke from the fires was clearly visible from space.

This was, quite simply, unimaginable destructive force on a large scale and that incinerated everything and everyone in its path.

Witnesses have spoken of a deafening, howling wind noise like the sound of a dozen jet engines, of choking black smoke blotting the midday sun from the sky and flames that raced across the landscape at speeds in excess of 80 km/h. People trying belatedly to flee from the fire were caught and died in their cars. If this seems inconceivable, take a look at this first 20 seconds of this video to see how alarmingly quickly the river of flame tears through a field.

A wider tragedy

The human losses of this fire have been overwhelming, yet there is another story to be told as well. Regular readers of this blog know that tm consultancy has chosen to support animal-related charities in 2009 and so in relation to that commitment I also want to take a moment to consider how animals have been affected by this disaster.

Over a million acres of bushland has been burned (more than double the amount of Australia's next-worst fire disaster in 1983, dubbed "Ash Wednesday"). The toll in animal lives from this year's fires will be utterly catastrophic, with early estimates of at least a million animals killed in the fires.

Hope from the ashes

An unlikely mascot of hope has emerged from the aftermath, however, in the form of one of Australia's iconic critters: Sam the Koala.

Sam (now most often called Sammie, as Sam proved to be a girl Koala) first caught the imagination of the world when she was filmed drinking water from a volunteer firefighter.

Taken to a local animal shelter by volunteers, her burned paws were bandaged up and, in a happy twist, she found herself being cared for by Bob, one of the other koalas at the shelter.

From tragedy, love seems to have emerged as Sammie and Bob have become inseparable.

Their story is captured in video here and the plight of animals in general is reported here.

I think the reason this story has so quickly caught the imagination of people worldwide is because, on a small scale, Sammie and Bob represent how even overwhelming and deadly adversity can bring out the best in us. These little koalas have shown us that, in the end, we have to pull together and take care of each other.

Most of all, moments like this clearly illustrate one basic truth: what joins us is so much greater than what separates us. Australia is an extraordinary land, and this year it has faced extraordinary natural disasters. Australians have united to face these disasters with dignity, kindness, generosity and the good-natured "no worries" attitude that has captured the world's attention.

The Long Road Ahead

Still, Sammie and Bob are among the lucky ones to have survived. For them and for many other survivors, the fallout will be great, and it will be lasting. Please donate to the charities listed at the top of this blog using the links provided. As reported here and here, animals continue to need help and will do for some time because their natural homes have been wiped out.

I'll close with the following montage of images posted on YouTube in support of the RSPCA (also viewable here).

1 comment:

Mo said...

The fires were terrible. A friend of mine was one of the volunteer firemen who went to Australia to help. I hope the recovery is speedy.