In 1983, I was a student nurse working in the Burns Unit of the Alfred Hospital when the Ash Wednesday Fires swept through, damaging so much property and taking many lives. Caring for those burns victims, some who had lost their families, was one of the most traumatic things I have ever had to do in my professional life and it has stayed with me for 26 years.
It was hoped that in Australia we would never see such loss of life from bushfires again. We had learned so much from that. Communities had diaster plans, residents in the country had fire plans and on Friday in anticipation of the heat, state parks were actually closed which is unheard of. So we all thought, things are in place, the weather is awful but although the earth may scorch, people will be OK.
But the wind changed. Towns I drove through four days ago no longer exist, burned to the ground. 700+ homes have been lost and the death toll continues to rise, currently 98.
My heart is bleeding for the trauma these people are experiencing – the loss of loved ones, the loss of beloved pets, the loss of everything they own and the loss of their town. Parts of Victoria look like the pictures of Vietnam after napalm.
The brave and dedicated CFA members are exhausted, the hospitals are just coping and the Red Cross and Salvation Army are quietly doing what they do best – practical support and counselling. But where do you draw strength from where everything you’ve ever known has vanished and the same thing has happened to everyone in your town?
Financial donations are being welcomed at the RED CROSS but can I also encourage you if you’re able, please donate Blood this week.
The true spirit of country Australia will rise to overcome this. Towns will be rebuilt as they have been in the past but the devastation of of this horrendous day will never be forgotten.