“The seventh of February 2009 will now be remembered as one of the darkest days in Australia’s peacetime history.” This remark from Julia Gillard – Deputy Prime Minister emphasized how devastated the nation is with this bushfire tragedy. More than 180 people lost their live , hundreds were injured, at least 750 family become homeless and nothing less than 330,000 hectares (3,300 square kilometer) of forest and rural city area were burnt. ( That area is almost 5 times larger than Singapore).
‘Bushfire’ is Australian term for what known as wild fire or forest fire. So, although the name is “Bushfire” (bush ~ scrubs) and imply small fire, it is not. This is massive fire where people fleeing with car still got burnt as the fire is faster than the acceleration of the car. If you browse many news site you will see a lot of those car just charred on the side of the road losing the race… To make it even worse, due to the large area and sudden change of wind, the small rural city affected were almost got no warning and literally only within minutes the damages and fatality were maximum. The most ironic thing is that exactly the same time, the north of the country in North Queensland, heavy flooding have ravaged the area and 62% of the sunshine state has been declared disaster area. But gladfully no fatality has occured.
What happen next stuns me…
Often tragedy unites the humanity, I can really see that here. Literally all walk of life, the poor, the rich, the struggle, they are all hand in hand help each other in one way of another:
- Just like a reflex, no less than 20,000 people on 7th of February, as soon as the news break, they register themselves as new blood donor. The regular number of donor is only average ata bout 1500 a month. I guess they all remember thos poster that burnt victim need blood.
- Money donation. Just within 12 hours, cash donation already reach $12 million and by the time I write this post (4 days later) it’s well exceeding $50 million mark. This is just the donation organized by Red Cross which is supported by all major TV network. But beside this major charity body such as St Vincent the Paul, Salvation Army even all big banks have catered people who wants to donate. I estimate public donation will easily exceed $100 million mark in few days. For a country with population only around 22 million, the amount is huge.
- Thousands of volunteer are on the ground just within hour providing temporary accomodation, emergency utility work, medical asistance, temporary kitchen, counsel victim, and of course fire fighting.
- And everytime I read newspaper or watch news program on TV the last few days, there are always a gestures from stranger that humble me:
- Bosses that allows his/her worker to have a leave from work full pay to become volunteer
- Truck driver that donate his time, his truct (and his business) to transport supply back and forth from the affected area free of charge
- Artist, celebrity, politician, sport team that immediately spare their time to visit and give a bit of spirit booster to all the victim
- Banks freeze the mortgage payment for several months for those who affected and offer emergency credit to cover immediate cash and need
I experience this awe myself yesterday during my monthly visit to Red Cross for blood donation. Usually a Wednesday evening visit will be short, probably with 30 minutes and I am done. And usually there is only hardly 1 or 2 other donor. But not yesterday… It’s almost 8pm in the afternoon and almost 2 hours there, all chair are fully occupied with donor. Most of them got sticker “This is My First Donation” on their chest to alert staff that they probably need extra care. The young and very old were there, some even need full blanket just to cover the cold of the air conditioner, some with very scary looks when the needle was put on their arm. But they all were there, escaping from their usual activity, do something that they never done before, answering call for help from some stranger. Isn’t that very humbling experience ? it is for me….. The first hand evidence that actually we still care for one another despite the increasing road rage, the increasing crime rate and it seems everybody forgets about the economics crisis…..
I guess it become the homework for all os us, politician, engineer, businessman, doctor, lawyer, etc to contribute to make such tragedy will never happen again anywhere in the world. Heat sensing satellite, wireless communication, internet or other modern measure surely should be able to give some kind of early warning system. Then the technology to defend yourself and your property from such fire surely can be developed cheap enough for deployment everywhere.
All of this natural disasters remind us that the mother nature is so powerful that we human only can beg for its mercy.
Have a good day !