Apocalypse 2020: Spilt Milk
A new day dawned over Australia, apparently. I couldn't see it through the smoke: for the second day in a row Canberra had the worst air quality in the world, although it was significantly better than yesterday, and the carbon monoxide has dropped to civilised urban levels (hence my relatively cheerful outlook). The temperature barely reached the mid thirties, Celsius, which to us feels pleasantly warm.
Tourists and residents continued to flee the beach resort towns of the NSW and Victorian coast in the south east of the country, queuing for petrol and supplies before creeping in small convoys past not-actually-controlled bushfires with police escorts. News began to trickle through of who has a house and who does not. The death toll has risen to 17 (nine since Christmas), and the list of missing people rose sharply with 17 unaccounted for in eastern Victoria. We are still reeling from the horror of Monday when a relatively small fire near the NSW/Victorian border created a fire tornado that flipped a 10 tonne firetruck upside down, killing a young firey. But we also took time for a little ash-grey humour, listening to a magpie that has adopted the song of the fire engines after months of constant bushfires.
Don't be fooled, either, by the relative calm today. The bushfires haven't stopped. The milder weather just means that fireys can get in and protect a few houses, evacuate some towns, and prepare for the heatwave starting tomorrow. The temperature is expected to rise over the next few days, and the fires create their own weather, generating wind, storms and tornadoes that throw embers far ahead of the fire fronts. The Victorian Premier has declared a state of disaster; the NSW Premier has declared a state of emergency; and in the ACT, where I am, we are on high alert as fires take hold through the high country to our south and west. My family have reviewed our plans and commenced the precautionary packing: we have a three tier evacuation plan with one hour, two minute and thirty second options, and the essentials in the car or by the door ready to go.
And in the midst of all this, our Prime Minister, the execrable Scott Morrison, visited the tiny town of Cobargo, NSW, where two people died and a great many houses burnt this week. It was, he said, such a tragedy that so many dairy farmers were having to pour good milk down the drain because their farms were without power. And it did seem to be very hard on the many people stuck in traffic jams, but we should be patient. And it still isn't the right time to discuss climate change.
Cobargo heckled him out of town.
Gentlenoders, please forgive my laxness today on updating your reQuests. I would rather be noding but I keep having to do sensible adult things like check in with elderly relatives, review evacuation plans, allay the anxieties of a ten year old who finds all this terrifying, have minor post-trauma-triggered panic attacks and so forth.
As an apology, and because it might start to sound like Australia is a terrible dangerous place you should avoid at all costs, please enjoy this helpful and very cheerful song about the nice things Australia has to offer.