Page last updated at 13:44 GMT, Monday, 9 February 2009

Australian media: Wildfire horror

Flowers outside a burnt-out property
Flowers at the gate of a burnt-out property in Bendigo, Australia
The shock and horror felt in Australia at the scale of the devastation caused by the wildfires is reflected across the media.

The national reaction is underlined by the headline on theSydney Morning Herald newspaper: "A Tragedy Beyond Belief".

In an editorial headline, Melbourne's The Age describes: "A state swept by flames, united by suffering."

The newspaper highlights the case of one victim. It says: "Whatever the final figure may be, however, the reality of what has happened will still be the same for the man who arrived at a farm near Kinglake with his infant daughter.

"The man and the child were both badly burned, and his news was that his wife and other child were dead. 'Look, I've lost my wife, I've lost my other kid,' he said, 'I just need you to save (my daughter)'."

The editorial concludes: "The bonds forged by death and devastation are never willingly sought, but sometimes they are the bonds that sustain us most."

'Everybody's gone'

ABC News has been hearing how the bushfires are continuing to wreak havoc in Kinglake, north-east of Melbourne.

One survivor, Christopher Harvey, who fears he has lost nearly all his neighbours, told the broadcaster: "There was no chance of fighting or taking care of this fire.

"Everybody's gone. Everybody's gone. Everybody. Their houses are gone. This is our house, this is it. They're all dead in the houses there. Everybody's dead."

Looking for my Mum who lives in Marysville. Very worried. Haven't heard anything from her since 6.45 p.m. last night
Message board appeal
Herald Sun

The Age focuses on the town of Strathewen, north of Melbourne.

The paper says on Saturday afternoon, there were 200 people living in the rural town. By the end of that night, it is believed about 15% of the population, or about 30 people, had perished.

The paper spoke to firefighter and farmer David McGahy, who is the divisional commander of that section of the fires.

Fighting back tears, he said: "I've had a fair bit of criticism from people saying why didn't you help me, but I couldn't help them. I couldn't do anything."

'Darkest days'

The Sydney Morning Herald highlights the story of another firefighter, Drew Adamson, in Dixons Creek. The paper tells how he stood and watched his home burn while he saved someone else's.

In the past two days, he had seen a body tumble from a smashed car and charred remains in the blackened shells of other vehicles, it adds.

He tried to help a woman find her sister's children, only to discover they had burned in a house in the Kinglake fires.

The ruins of Kinglake, Australia
Rescuers search through rubble in Kinglake, one of the worst-hit areas

Doctors treating burn victims say the situation is worse than the Bali bombings, according to ABC News.

At Melbourne's Alfred Hospital, staff were treating 21 victims with burns to at least 30% of their bodies, the broadcaster says.

Many news organisations also reflect on the emotion shown by Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard during a sombre two-hour sitting of parliament and her description of Saturday as "one of the darkest days in Australia's peacetime history".

But not everyone sympathises with the politicians.

This comment from Ben in Westmead was sent to 2GB Radioin Sydney: "Kevin Rudd and the Australian government, hang your head in shame.

"I personally think it's disgusting that we, the tax payers, are giving banks a A$70bn bail-out, to only give the bushfire victims A$10m.

"For me, give the bush the A$70bn to sort [out] lives and infrastructure and let the greedy banks go bust.

"Finally, seeing the PM hugging people in front of news cameras doesn't rebuild shattered lives or homes."


Blogger Darryl Mason at The Orstrahyun described the wildfires as "like a tragedy from another century".

Burnt out vehicle in Bendigo
Police officers examine the remains of a burnt out vehicle in Bendigo
"The visuals that haunt and linger now are of all those cars, reduced to grey and black metal husks, some all alone on charred roads, others rammed into each other in piles of six, seven, eight vehicles outside of towns with names that are literally scorched into our national consciousness," he wrote.

"How did this appalling horror become reality, here? In this age? With all our technology?"

At least three groups have been created on Facebook in the wake of the wildfires.

The biggest group is called: "Applaud the CFA (Country Fire Authority) heroes & empathise with the victims of the 09 Vic bushfires".

It reads: "May the arsons [sic] who felt the need to destroy people's lives truly be punished!"

The Herald Sun in Melbourne, meanwhile, is one newspaper with appeals from readers worried about loved ones.

This, on its message board, is typical: "Looking for my Mum who lives in Marysville. Very worried. Haven't heard anything from her since 6.45 p.m. last night."

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