Australian Bush Fires

New Zealanders are shocked at the disastrous fires in Australia. We now know that more than 100 people have died. The hospitals are filled with people who have burns; some have minor burns to the soles of their feet while others have major burns and will probably die. Whole towns have been burnt and thousands of homes have been destroyed. This tragedy is the worst ever national disaster in Australia.

Temperatures in the south of Australia have been as high as 46 degrees Celsius. People say when you open the door it feels like an oven. The extreme heat, the wind and dry conditions have made it very difficult to control the fires. There is no humidity. The grass and trees are dry and the wind has carried the fires very fast. The government has called in the army to help fight the fires. Even when the fires are out, the wind can easily start them again. Many of these bush fires are quite close to Melbourne, just 40 km away, so smoke is in the air over Melbourne.

Although Australia is three hours away by plane, we feel close. We have a similar culture. Many New Zealanders live in Australia. Many New Zealanders holiday in Australia, especially in the winter when it is cold here and much warmer there. Australians also come to New Zealand, especially in the winter to enjoy skiing. More tourists come here from Australia than from any other country. So this tragedy is a reminder for us of how close we feel to Australia. We are deeply shocked.