2000 homes lost so far, 7000 homeless, full death toll may never be known. Hundreds still listed as missing. Many towns have not been searched yet, falling trees, blocked roads, fires and the need to treat every incident as a crime scene, makes slow progress.
Entire vehicles and houses were reduced to ash, even brick pillars exploded and burnt. Not ash and coal like on a BBQ. Just a fine layer of grey ash, so hot was the fire. So far, every type of metal known to man has been found melted. The hills are covered in frozen streams of molten metal.
The tales of survivors are as unbelievable as the cruel twists of fate.
The people of Victoria and Australia have raised 80 million dollars in less than a week. some huge donations from actors, singers, celebs etc.
We have 7000 people with nothing.
The reaction of the people has been extraordinary, everything has been donated and I mean everything that an entire town of 7000 people could need. Medical care, clothes, glasses, drugs, caravans, campers, generators you name it, its remarkable.
I'm not having a cheap shot, but a lot of people have said "We don't want those people to end up like the Katrina victims, waiting for the Government to help".
Theres doctors and vets and chiros and plumbers and Garbo's and you name it, everyone is doing what they can.
Volunteers are coordinating everything, Govt may as well not exist. Red Cross, Salvos, Animal Welfare, all doing their bit.
Insurance companies are advertising for people to claim immediate $5000 payments, no ID required (most people do not have one single document to their name). The Govt agency Centrelink has relaxed ID regs and is making payments in record time. $1000 adult, $400 per child grant has already been paid by the Govt. $10,000 grants to cover funeral expenses have been paid. Every family will have a lap top early next week.
People have taken annual leave, come out of retirement, quit work to help ;). Bakers are baking free bread, dairy's delivering free milk. People working throughout the night to make meals for firefighters.
If someone rings the radio, the radio has really proved its worth, like id did back in 83, and asks for say, size 9 men's shoes, in one minute, people, stores, manufacturers ring in and say how many and where do you want them? we are packing the truck now. Its been the same for hay, bridles, bandages, bikes, computers. Salt, eyeliner, pegs, toothbrushes, aftershave, sunglasses and false teeth. On day 2, people were donating their own clothes, not rags, their own good clothes, by day 4, people were donating brand new clothes.
A bloke that fixes washing machines, loaded 20 on a truck with a water tank and a pump and a generator, set up a laundry in a field. No names, no pack drill, just knew it had to be done.
You know, we tend to harp on a bit about the "helping your mates out" in this Country. We have constantly asked ourselves if we are as good as they were in 1917, or 1944. Its a shame that it takes a disaster like this to prove to ourselves that we are as good as they were, when the time came.
Its just incredible to see all of this achieved in less than a week, most of it within arms length of a spot fire, believe it or not.
I was worried that we were becoming a nation of people who expected the Government to provide everything. I was worried people would be stupid to organise a relief effort, that they would worry about being sued, that it "wasn't their job".
The exact opposite happened, people, especially people who remember `39 or 67, or 83, took one look at the sky and knew it was bad. Said, well we are not waiting for people to help, we are the help!
There have been no arguments, no territorial disputes. Some of the most decent and genuine deeds have come from our newly arrived migrants. The people of FNQ who's houses are currently 10 feet under water have handed over THEIR relief checks to go to the fire appeal!
The same crews have been fighting the fires non stop for nearly a week, they will crash very soon. You can only fight a fire 20 hours a day for so long. Help has arrived from Interstate, New Zealand. The US is sending 60 specialists over, the Canadians are thawing their boots. Many countries that experience bush fires have sent over people to learn from this disaster.
When you see a man who has lost his parents, 3 children, wife and house to something caused by nature, its hard to forget.
A man has been charged with Arson causing death in relation to the Churchill fires down where Geoff is. 21 people burnt to ashes down there. Mums, Dads, Kids, War Widows. The Scum was secretly taken to court, charged, and moved 250k to Melbourne where he was remanded in Custody.