Close to 100 people have been killed and hundreds of homes have been burnt down in Australia’s worst wildfires in more than three decades, and authorities fear the death toll will rise.
Bushfires are not uncommon in Australia, but a combination of high temperatures, drought and strong winds has created deadly conditions. “Hell in all its fury has visited the good people of Victoria in the last 24 hours and many good people now lie dead, many others lie injured,” said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. “This is an appalling tragedy for Victoria but because of that, it’s an appalling tragedy for the nation,” the prime minister added. The fires have swept through the densely-populated southeast including the New South Wales and South Australia, with the Melbourne area one of the worst hit. The devastation has brought back dark memories of the deadly “Ash Wednesday” fires of 1983 which claimed 75 lives: “You just drive through here and it’s just devastating, you can’t believe it, it’s just like Ash Wednesday all over again,” said fire victim Chris Hobbs, from Bendigo near Melbourne. “All I’ve got left is what I stand up in and my bag, and my house, my house of 25 years is gone. I worked so hard to get that house,” said another survivor. The small town of Marysville near Melbourne has been razed to the ground. The army is on standby and emergency services are working round the clock to try to contain the blazes, which they warn will continue to burn for days.