With the fires affecting so many in our extended community, it seems everyone knows someone who has lost something or someone. The older two boys came back from school on Monday very sombre, saying one of the maths teachers has lost his house, and his sons are still missing. Son #3 came home from his school very shaky and fragile. There are a couple of children in his class who had the fire at their back fence.
The weather is now cooler and the wind coming from the south; our area/town/rural outer suburb is not under immediate threat from the existing out of control fires, but everyone is on tenterhooks as the land is bleached bone dry and the winds fickle. Yesterday the radio announced that an urgent threat message had been issued for our town, which caused a flurry of panic, text messages, emails and phone calls, only to have it retracted two minutes later as an error. Talk about jumpy? Oh yes.
The local CFA station is at the end of our street and every time the siren goes off (as it does frequently right now as you may imagine) my heart skips a beat and Son #3's eyes fill with tears. Our car is permanently packed with water, blankets and the ziplock bag full of important paperwork (passports, birth certificates etc) and our new bushfire plan is FLEE FLEE FLEE. (Flea? says the dog. Noooooo ... ) A house is just mud and sticks after all.
I just heard on the radio that only 18km separates two of the largest out of control fires northeast of the city and the fear is that they will merge into one gigantic megafire. The wind is awfully strong out there, and this morning I could see the smoke billowing over the Yarra Valley.
The latest news is here. The official death toll is 181 currently but will exceed
So. What can be done to help those devastated by fire?
If you can offer accommodation for displaced people (do you have a caravan, a granny flat in your backyard, a holiday house?) please ring 1800 006468
The relief centres have been inundated with donations of clothing and shoes, but are urgently requesting NEW UNDERWEAR. Kids and adults sizes please.
Please do your grocery shopping at Coles THIS Friday, and Woolworths and Safeway NEXT Friday, as 100% of their profits will go to the bushfire relief fund.
The craft bloggers are raising funds. If you visit handmade helps out you can purchase handmade items and the money will go to the relief fund. You can also offer to make something for sale.
Pip at meet me at mikes has a huge list of links on her blog with ways you can help.
Honeybee Toys (branches in Montmorency and Malvern) is making up children's care packages. You can help by donating, or purchasing (or both!). Details are here. Spread the word.
You can donate money to the central relief fund at the Red Cross, online here.
Donations for wildlife rescue efforts can be made here.
You can donate blood.
Lots of bloggers are writing about the fires far more eloquently than I can. Barista wrote a thoughtful post - We lived again but life was different.
For those who are wondering out loud why on earth people were fighting the Kinglake fires in their shorts and thongs, or why they didn't implement their fire plans earlier, read this.
The Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard made a very moving speech (motion) of condolence in the House of Representatives. Kim reproduces it here.
And Penni, who has been in the middle of it all, writes here.
I won't apologise for harping on and on. It must be tedious for the rest of the world but I think we are finding it hard to believe this is happening to US. Natural disasters with huge losses of life only happen in third world countries, right? Er, wrong. One day I'll post about other things again, but right now it feels totally bizarre, not to mention downright wrong, to open up my bloglines and find shiny happy posts about sewing, shopping, knitting or Valentines Day preparations.