Monday, February 9, 2009

Australian bush fires

In the Guardian, an update on the truly terrible bushfires sweeping Victoria:

The death toll from the deadliest bushfires in Australia's history could reach into the hundreds as the devastation is uncovered in the burning and blackened ruins of towns, the authorities warned last night.

Described as "hell on earth", the fires left at least 108 dead, but police in Victoria said the final death toll would be much greater.

"I think it [the body count] will be up into the 100s ... 200," acting Sergeant Scott Melville, who has the job of dragging bodies out of charred vehicles and homes, told the Melbourne Age. "It's like a friggin' war zone up here, it's like a movie scene."

The army has been called in to help the thousands of exhausted firefighters who, for the third consecutive day, will try to put out 26 fires threatening suburbs near Melbourne.

Fifty fires were also raging across New South Wales, where temperatures reached 46C (115F) yesterday.

I don't think anyone could say categorically, "This is the result of climate change." But I'm not sure many would disagree with the notion that this kind of thing will happen more and more as temperatures rise.

In Leeds, where my family lives, it's been snowing for a week--incredibly unusual. I suspect soon, though, it will be quite usual. I'm more glad, every day, for that night in Atlanta almost exactly fourteen years ago when I woke Kelley at two o'clock in the morning and said, "We're moving!" and waved an atlas at her. Bless her, she rubbed her eyes and said, "What, now?" and I said, "No. But as soon as we've sold this house." She yawned, said womanfully, "Where?" and I said "The Pacific Northwest. Portland, or Seattle, or Bellingham. I don't care."

The next morning I laid it all out for her sensibly--geophysical and sociopolitical climate, natural resources, chocolate, beer, coffee--and she said, Well, what the fuck, let's do it! So we did. I sorts of forgot to consider the earthquakes, though...

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