My condolences to all those families who have lost family members in the tragic wildfires that have devastated the Australian state of Victoria over the last 48 hours.
For the benefit of my overseas readers, the major fires have been about an hour’s drive north, north east and south east of Melbourne, Victoria. Some are still raging out of control after record high temperatures and wild winds swept the firestorm through many rural communities.
As I sat down to write this the number of deaths has risen over the last half hour from 65 to 74 and now stands at 76. Many more are still missing, and as destroyed homes and burnt out vehicles are searched, the death toll is sure to rise, some predict over 100. It is already the most deaths due to fires in Australia’s history.
At least four towns have been severely devastated with most homes destroyed. One town has only one building unburnt. Over 700 homes have been lost.
I have no idea what effect these fires have had on the birdlife of the areas burnt, or of the wildlife in general. I can only imagine the worst. I know of at least one wildlife rescue centre that has been destroyed, together with the loss of all animals in care.
Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary to the north east of Melbourne has evacuated all of the endangered species, including the rare Orange-bellied Parrots, to Melbourne Zoo.
Update: Later in the evening the death toll stood at 84 and the number of homes lost at 750.
Update late Monday: The death toll now stands at 135 and is expected to rise further. It is now easily Australia’s worst natural disaster.
Update Thursday 19th Feb: The death toll has now reached 200 plus one fire fighter who lost his life during the cleanup. About 1830 homes were lost and 7000 people are now homeless.