One of the things I’ve learned in the few years of running this site is that the world is huge and enormous and international postage is expensive, but thanks to the internet, the world is also much, much smaller. I know we have readers from all over the world, and now countries I hear about on the news aren’t just places I have trouble finding on a map (Hey, whaddya want from me?! I’m American!) but places where people I know and talk with online live. So when bad shit happens there it makes me feel both powerless because I’m so far away, and at the same time strangely closer and connected, because those places have become personal for me.
Over 130 people have been killed and the death toll is rising with what appears to be arson wildfires consuming southeastern Australia. Bitchery reader Fizz wrote to me:
South-eastern Australia is covered in fires. The fires have been burning for three days. As of seven-thirty this morning, they’d found over a hundred dead bodies, most of them in cars because they’d left it too late to leave. Hundreds are injured. Dozens are missing. There are towns that waited for the fires to come on Saturday night and literally didn’t exist by Sunday morning. The town of Marysville usually has about eight hundred people living in it, got hit on Saturday…and there’s one building still standing. In the whole town, there’s only one. Kinglake and Kinglake North have about a thousand people between them – they’re left with a handful of houses, a pub and a market garden. That’s it.
Thousands of firefighters (most of them unpaid volunteers) are still on duty. They’ve brought the Australian Defence Force in to help. We’re fairly used to fires – some kind of bushfire is pretty much a guaranteed yearly event – but there’s never been anything like this.
What boggles my mind is that they were deliberately set, and that some news accounts I’ve read indicate that after fires were controlled, people were going back to reset the contained areas so the fire would spread again. It’s so hot and so dry that the fire itself moves over 60mph, and people have little to no warning should the flames change direction. People took refuge in animal burrows, football fields, or in reservoirs.
I have a post set to go live on Friday that talks about Australia’s Library Lovers’ Day on 14 Feb, and while I’ll still allow it to publish, I imagine surviving the fires and finding any survivors is more of the focus right now.
So to all our Australian readers: stay safe. I’m so sorry this is happening to you.