If you live in Australia, tomorrow is D Day.
It’s not the Melbourne Cup. It’s not a football final. It’s not the fifth day of a test series. It’s not about sport at all. It’s people against fire.
Nearly every state or territory in this country is suffering from fires of nearing catastrophic proportions. Victoria (whose numberplates used to boast “The Garden State) has declared itself in a state of disaster. The New South Wales Coast is a thick rim of blackened forest, blasting inferno and billowing smoke. The Snowy Mountains have been almost entirely evacuated. The Blue Mountains are already black. Queensland is dotted from border to beach with varying degrees of burning. South Australia is alight. Western Australia has trouble spots.
The Australian Defense forces are using their skills to rescue a thousand people off Mallacoota’s beach or to fly helicopters into towns isolated by fire and pick up vulnerable residents.
The Rural Fire Service (a team of dedicated volunteers, for the most part) have been on full time, active duty since early December. Homes are being destroyed. Farmers, who have fed their stock in worsening drought for three years (at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars a week) are now under threat of losing that stock to fire. People have died. Fire trucks have burned. Animals in their millions are perishing. Hundreds of thousands of hectares are black and smoking.
Nobody is denying that this situation is beyond anything that has ever happened before. And our PM (who came to power with no promises) is living up to his word. He promises nothing. He won’t admit any link to Climate Change. He has to be bullied into acknowledging the role of the firefighters. He has to be wheedled home from his holiday in Hawaii. And when the victims are cranky with him and won’t shake his hand for the TV cameras, he says they are hurting and raw and he’s not taking it personally.
Tomorrow the thermometer is going to reach the low to mid 40s with roaring winds. The air is dry. The grass is dry. The earth and sky are brown. Australia is now available in sepia or black and white. Colour is being ripped from under our noses. It feels like the beginning of the end. And yet I am one of the lucky ones.
When it ends, which I suppose it must at some point (perhaps after several more D Days like New Years Eve and like tomorrow), I wonder what will happen. When people are no longer focused on fighting or supporting or worrying or waiting… what will happen next? What will the fall-out be?
A lot of people are taking it personally Mr PM. I think it’s about time you did too.