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Worst ever bushfires in Australia

  1. Feb 8, 2009 #1

    Astronuc

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    Australian wildfires kill 96 as floods bring crocs to town
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20090208/ts_afp/australiaweatherfire [Broken]

    Unfortunately, the death toll is expected to rise and others are discovered.

    Victoria is facing perhaps the worst drought in history. Temperatures are reaching 117°F (47°C)

    Meanwhile - cyclonic rains are battering Queensland (NE Oz)

    Update: 108 killed in deadliest-ever Australian wildfires
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090208/ap_on_re_au_an/as_australia_wildfires [Broken]

    My mom talk to family back there, and they said the count was up to 120 killed.

    Healesville has a wonderful wildlife sanctuary, which is home to many of indigenous animals. It is just east of Marysville, and apparently at risk.
    http://www.zoo.org.au/HealesvilleSanctuary
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
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  3. Feb 8, 2009 #2

    lisab

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    Astro, I know that you're Australian by birth, and fuzzyfelt I know you're Australian by heart. I have both of you in my thoughts as I read about this horrible event...such a terrifying story.

    I'm sure we have other PFers from down under...my sympathies to all Aussies.
     
  4. Feb 8, 2009 #3
    I was thinking if the bushfire was really worse or if the people were never informed about the fire. It's hard to believe (and scary as well) that people learned about the fire when it was at their doorsteps. 100 is too many! :(
     
  5. Feb 8, 2009 #4

    mgb_phys

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    Fires aren't uncommon this time of year, it's just that this is bigger than usual. Moving people out in advance would be like evacuating Canada in december because of the risk of snow.
    The trouble is that the fire can move at 50mph and change direction, so overnight a fire that was 500miles away could be on you in the morning.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2009
  6. Feb 9, 2009 #5
    What a tragic event, really horrific film footage on the news last night. I feel really badly for all involved.
     
  7. Feb 9, 2009 #6

    Astronuc

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    The fires may be the worst in terms of extent and loss of life. Some of the fires appear to be deliberately set.

    In some cases, the fires are due to carelessness.

    Cigarette butt blamed for West Bendigo fire; two dead, 50 homes lost
    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,27574,25027063-1243,00.html [Broken]

    I have an aunt and uncle in Bendigo.

    Australian fire zone a crime scene; 131 killed
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090209/ap_on_re_au_an/as_australia_wildfires [Broken]

    Arson Suspected in Australia Fires That Have Killed 131
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/10/world/asia/10australia.html

    I've seen some speculation that more than 200 people may have been killed. The number killed is now up to 135 as of 0700 EST.


    As far as I know, southern Australia has been experiencing its worst drought period on record. That contributes to the very dry conditions that greatly increase the risk and consequences of a bushfire. As mgb_phys indicated, bushfires are relatively common in Victoria and New South Wales during the summer, but usually they are limited or quickly controlled. Suburbs of Sydney had some bad fires last year and in 2002 and 1997.

    http://australiasevereweather.com/fires/history.htm
    http://australiasevereweather.com/fires/index.html
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  8. Feb 9, 2009 #7

    mgb_phys

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    Now that it's arson the focus will be on 'catching those responsible' of course rather than working out how to prevent it happening again. How to improve monitoring and warning systems, wether some houses shouldn't be rebuilt in high risk areas and what different fire fighting gear is needed.
     
  9. Feb 9, 2009 #8

    Astronuc

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    I think they will give serious thought to prevention.

    All of the forested areas (primarily eucalyptus) in the east are at risk for fire, and people like to live outside of metropolitan Melbourne. To make is suitable, they'd have to strip the forests and replant with deciduous species, which are probably ill-suited for the predominantly dry and hot summer climate.
     
  10. Feb 9, 2009 #9
    Also it could be an idea to have forest free corridors around living areas, denying fuel for propagation fo the fires.
     
  11. Feb 9, 2009 #10

    mgb_phys

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    Thats the problem - the answer "don't live out in the bush amid 1000s of sq Km of frankly explosive trees that burn every year" is a little unpalatable.
    You could reduce the risk by limiting where you can build, have brush wood removal, controlled burns, extra hydrants, rescue shelters etc. But it's going to be a lot cheaper and a lot more politically acceptable to blame the whole thing on a couple of arsonists.
     
  12. Feb 9, 2009 #11

    fuzzyfelt

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    It is a terrible tragedy.
     
  13. Feb 9, 2009 #12

    wolram

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    How many people do a risk assessment for the place where they chose to live, once they have put down roots, could they afford to move, given that other people may know the reasons why they want move.
    How much control should a government have on the environment where it allows people to live, should they recover costs with high taxes.
    How many disasters would it need to say a city, town, area is not viable for residence,
    would New Orleans qualify?
     
  14. Feb 9, 2009 #13

    turbo

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    Hard questions. Many very wealthy people insist on building mansions in the chaparral canyons of California. The flora there regenerate through regular burns, but as small fires are suppressed (to protect the houses), brush builds up until it reaches a density at which almost any fire grows very rapidly and can be difficult or impossible to contain. These serious burns destroy the root systems that anchor the soil. Under "normal" unregulated conditions the smaller fires are not intense enough to destroy the roots, and the plants regenerate. During an intense wildfire, the roots are destroyed, and the soil is unprotected, resulting in devastating mudslides during the next rainy season.

    If I were running an insurance company, I would flatly refuse to write home-owners insurance on these places, or else write policies with very stringent limitations on losses due to fire, mudslides, erosion of property, etc. I am very sorry for the loss of life in Oz, especially innocents like children who have no choice about where they live. Still, it's time that people started taking personal responsibility for their choices.

    Our own federal government fosters irresponsible behavior, using our tax dollars to underwrite low cost flood insurance in low-lying zones prone to hurricanes. I for one am sick of paying to rebuild fancy beach-houses every time a hurricane comes ashore.
     
  15. Feb 9, 2009 #14

    Astronuc

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    Toward the southwest and southeast of Melbourne, most of the original forests have been cutdown.

    One can see on satellite images the areas that are brown or light green, which are now farm land or housing tracts. Along the M1/A1 motorway, east into the Gippsland area, most of the forest is gone.

    The other part of that is the indigenous wildlife need those forests, and koalas particular need the red gums.

    https://www.savethekoala.com/koalastrees.html [Broken]


    As far as I know, many of those houses do not have municipal water supply. I believe (but haven't confirmed) that they use well water, as I do where I am.

    I think what they need is large ground and elevated tank reservoirs, but that will certainly drive up the cost of those houses.

    Watch the news from Queensland regarding the severe flooding, Australia ought to think about collecting the rainwater in large reservoirs in the north (QLD) and sending to NSW and VIC - much like the acquifer system in California. The upper Mississippi valley - e.g. Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and any where else that floods catastrophically could use a resoirvoir and transport system to collect flood waters before they destroy towns and cities.

    Sad update: Australian fire zone a crime scene; 166 killed :frown:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  16. Feb 9, 2009 #15

    LowlyPion

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    Not many scientists in Victoria are likely jumping off the warming train this summer. A cooler than last year winter in North America, and look at the snuffling. One supposes there is unevenness elsewhere. But enough of that.

    I've been reading the horrific accounts in Victoria. Such a shame and terrible waste and human toll. From the pictures I've seen before, it has been a pretty area. Hopefully something good can rise in its renewal.
     
  17. Feb 10, 2009 #16

    Astronuc

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    Koala rescued from Australia's wildfire wasteland
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090210/ap_on_re_au_an/as_australia_wildfires_koala_rescue_3 [Broken]

    Australian official: Wildfire deaths will pass 200 :frown:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090210/ap_on_re_au_an/as_australia_wildfires [Broken]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  18. Feb 10, 2009 #17

    Borek

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    Horrible, but to some extent inevitable :(
     
  19. Feb 11, 2009 #18

    Astronuc

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    Mass deaths feared in sealed-off Australia town
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090211/wl_nm/us_australia_fires [Broken]

    Given that arson is believed to be a cause, this was not a natural phenomenon, but rather a case of mass homicide.


    New arson attacks suspected as Australian fires rage
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20090211/wl_afp/australiaweatherfirestoll [Broken]
    This is just sickening. :frown:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  20. Feb 11, 2009 #19

    mgb_phys

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    But the scale of the fires is a natural phenomenon given the weather and landscape. These fires aren't any different if some of them were started deliberately rather than from a lightning strike or discarded cig.

    It's like claiming Chernobyl wasn't an inevitable result of bad reactor design - but was just caused by human error.
     
  21. Feb 11, 2009 #20
    I haven't heard anything about how to tackle this kind of crisis in the future or why people couldn't be rescued on time or if those lives could be saved, rather they are just putting the blame on arsonists and making things easier for themselves?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
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