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Raw Aerial: 'Day Of Horror' Deadly Australian Bushfires

(no audio)Day of horror as inferno rages

February 8, 2009


VICTORIANS today awoke to the greatest bushfire catastrophe since Ash Wednesday. A statewide inferno that may have claimed up to 40 lives is still burning out of control.

Police, who last night were finally able to reach the blackened ruins of towns and communities, confirmed that 14 people had died. Six people who perished in a single vehicle in Kinglake, in the upper Yarra Valley, may have been from one family.

But police conceded they had little idea of how many others could be interred inside their ruined homes. Today they will continue the search for at least 25 people who were unaccounted for last night.

As more than 3000 firefighters and thousands of residents in dozens of communities last night battled to save homes, it emerged that hundreds of properties had already been lost.

Wandong, near Kilmore, suffered extensive losses and at least four people are known to have died.

Fifty houses were reportedly lost in the Redesdale area near Bendigo.

Police suspect some fires were deliberately lit.

The fires were driven by hot winds of more than 100km/h, and record temperatures that peaked at 46.4 degrees in Melbourne, hotter even than Black Friday in 1939.

Premier John Brumby described it as a "a deeply sad and shocking tragedy — an incredible and terrible loss".

"My heart, and I am sure the hearts of all Victorians, goes to the families and to the firefighters and volunteers who continue to battle the fires," he said.

"It is just a day I hope in my life time I never see repeated."

Exhausted firefighters battled blazes that spread in a thick band across the entire state. A squally change in the afternoon simply changed the direction of many fires, opening up new fronts, and new threats.

All 14 confirmed dead were victims of the single most devastating fire, which started near Kilmore, north of Melbourne, before turning south-easterly, burning dozens of homes in Wandong, and threatening Whittlesea. With the afternoon change, the fire turned on the town of Kinglake, isolating it as trees blocked the road. Hundreds of residents were sheltering in Kinglake's CFA station last night.

Firefighter Kevin Davy told of his horror as the ferocious fire rushed over his crew's truck while they tried to save a house near Whittlesea.

"It swept up the hill in a second. There was nothing we could do," he said. "I'm still not sure how we made it out. Two of the blokes didn't even have time to get into the cabin, they were on the blind side of the truck. If I hadn't screamed out they wouldn't have made it out alive."

Residents of some towns, including Marysville and Buxton, had gathered on the local oval as fire threatened their towns. Police confirmed two badly injured CFA officers had been airlifted to hospital from Buxton, two of more than 20 firefighters treated for heat, stress and smoke inhalation.

A man was in a critical condition in hospital with burns to 50 per cent of his body, and another suffered facial burns. Last night ambulance officers in Bendigo reported they had taken a large number of people, including firefighters, to Bendigo hospital with heat-related injuries.

Police called on people to stay away from fire-affected areas.

At times yesterday, fires threatened the northern and eastern outskirts of Melbourne, with houses lost in Narre Warren North, and Doreen briefly coming under threat.

Other fires were burning out of control near the Loy Yang power station, threatening Melbourne's power supplies, which had already been threatened earlier when several powerlines were disabled by fire.

Out-of-control blazes were also burning near Beechworth, in the state's north-east, Bendigo, Healesville, Yarra Glen, Warragul and Darnum.

The state's transport system was also thrown into chaos with the Hume Freeway, the Princes Highway, Eastlink and three regional rail lines closed. Connex cancelled 200 suburban services.

A fire burning at Ferntree Gully severely damaged the Belgrave train line, with trains between Belgrave and Ringwood likely to be out of service for at least a few days.

The mercury in the city topped 46.4 degrees at 3.04 pm.

Electricity was nearly cut to the city when fires at Kilmore knocked out two major transmission lines from NSW, and two of the four lines from the Latrobe Valley to Melbourne were also cut.

However, 60,000 customers were still suffering blackouts, mostly in the fire-affected east of the state, and north-east, from Kilmore, to Pakenham and Traralgon. A spokesman for electricity market regulator NEMMCO said if one more Latrobe Valley line had gone down, the state would have been forced into widespread blackouts.

"The fact that stayed in place enabled us to resecure the network," said spokesman Paul Bird.

The most dangerous fires were at Horsham, where 5700 hectares were burned out before the cool change tamed it; Kilmore, which swept through the towns of Wandong, Hidden Valley, Heathcote Junction and almost to Whittlesea; and Bunyip and Churchill, where 2400 hectares were burned.

Melbourne's hospitals were on high alert in preparation for a deluge of cases, but the feared medical crisis largely failed to materialise.

Both the Royal Melbourne and St Vincent's admitted six people uffering from conditions linked to the sweltering temperatures but no case proved fatal, unlike last weekend when scores of deaths were linked to the heatwave.

Despite this, the triple-0 service experienced such a high volume of calls that other callers were struggling to get through.

"We have been trying to let people know through the ABC, not to call triple 0 unless it is an emergency," a police spokeswoman said.
Michael Bachelard and Cameron Houston theage.au.com

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Added: Feb-7-2009 Occurred On: Feb-7-2009
By: bellava
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Tags: deadly, Australian, fire,
Location: Wandong, Victoria, Australia (load item map)
Views: 8913 | Comments: 43 | Votes: 1 | Favorites: 0 | Shared: 1 | Updates: 2 | Times used in channels: 1
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  • Good luck to my Aussie Brothers and Sisters fighting those fires. Sorry to hear about those lost in the fires.

    Posted Feb-7-2009 By 

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  • The death toll now stands at 25 as of 7am this morning and entire towns have simply gone.

    Posted Feb-7-2009 By 

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  • 45 confirmed dead now

    Posted Feb-8-2009 By 

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  • R.I.P Victorian brothers and sisters. Stay strong

    Posted Feb-8-2009 By 

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  • so sad, and all of this could be avoided if aboriginal burning practices were placed back in that environment.

    Posted Feb-7-2009 By 

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    • that's very simplistic considering, a 10 year raging drought and record temperatures in a country that can catch fire because it simply feels like it.

      Posted Feb-7-2009 By 

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    • studies have proven that aboriginal fires are of low intensity compared to the late dry season fires, despite weather conditions favoring rapid combustion.

      The incidence of intense wildfires, especially under late dry season conditions that exacerbate their effects(Williams et al., 1998), is thought to have increased because Aboriginal people were displaced from their lands or aggregated voluntarily in larger settlements (Levitus, 1995; Russell-Smith et al., 1997a)

      also, in the absence of More..

      Posted Feb-7-2009 By 

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    • I did my thesis on land management and your answer is still simplistic.

      Posted Feb-7-2009 By 

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    • and what exactly is your thesis on land management?
      fire supression?
      dont be a fool.

      the only way australia is going to avoid these high intesity fires is if aboriginal type land management practices are used to burn and clean the country.

      fire is a key part of that ecosystem and has been a traditional management tool for thousands of years.
      fires like this didnt happen until aboriginals were forced to stop burning when they vacated large areas of crown land

      the same thing happened i More..

      Posted Feb-7-2009 By 

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    • actually, aboriginal burns dont require back burns and fire breaks. the way they burn, throughout the year, creates a mosaic of preserved habitats and plant and animal species.

      spending some money on aboriginals to have them clean your country is far less expensive than the damaged caused by devistating wildfires that role through and completely kill the landscape, reaching to the canopy.

      Posted Feb-7-2009 By 

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  • another excuse to put up fuel tax

    Posted Feb-7-2009 By 

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    • Congratulations, that's the most moronic statement Ive seen in live leak yet. dickweed

      Posted Feb-7-2009 By 

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    • i agree with most of what you say but..... shhhh on the importance of money. My teenager thinks that all cash in my wallet is designated as SPARE money lol.

      Posted Feb-7-2009 By 

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    • What an insentitive comment.

      Posted Feb-7-2009 By 

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    • my comment was not aimed at the poor people who have past away in fact in wasnt even aimed at australia ..it was aimed at my own government who will blame global warming for the oz fires ,they will use anything like this to justify a hike in fuel tax

      Posted Feb-8-2009 By 

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    • thats ok dude i can see where i miss lead with my comment but mr brown and his gov are crippling me with tax after tax ..i used to make a decent living in my own taxi cab now i am doing twice the hours for less money ..2 weeks ago diesel was 94 pence a litre its now 99.9 ..i dont now how long people in the uk can put up with the way these dickheads are killing the country

      Posted Feb-8-2009 By 

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