[the sun over Warragul yesterday]
Yesterday was one of those extraordinary weather days that you rarely, if ever, encounter. It was apocalyptic – it got to 46.4 degrees celsius in Melbourne [that’s 115 degrees fahrenheit – the hottest ever recorded here], and it was hotter still in other parts of Victoria. The wind was gale force; ferocious. You could tell it carried hell with it.
We’re in a drought here, and have been for years, so trees have no stored water, and the ground is dry to an extraordinary depth. Put the wind, the heat and the dryness together [along with, in some places, arsonists] and the state combusted.
All week the warnings have been coming out about the weather for Saturday – the government told us not to go out, to avoid using public transport, to batten down the hatches and stay where you were. Various emergency services said throughout the week that this would be the worst day on memory. They spoke with an inevitably that was chilling – and prescient too. Yesterday morning on the radio, the head of the state’s emergency services department talked about a couple of bushfires that were already out of control, and put out warnings for townships that were in danger. ‘You’re too late to leave’, he said. ‘There will be ember attacks’ [ember attacks are burning branches that are carried with the wind over kilometres]. He said it with absolute certainty: ‘The sky will turn black.’
I can’t imagine what it would be like to stay in your house and wait for certain hell to come.
A lot of people died yesterday in the fires, and many more lost their homes. The fires are still, as I write, ripping through whole townships. Here in Melbourne I can hear thunder in the distance, and it’s cool and there’s even some rain – but for hundreds of thousands of people, today, the hell is still unfolding; they’re living a reality that the inevitable can never prepare you for.
Update: Chum Creek, where Mike and Claire [who are part of the ‘between the spaces’ collective, and so much more] live is under urgent threat according to the fire update pages… most of victoria seems under threat, so it’s hard to know what that means.