On behalf of my Australian friends and family, I would like to thank Canada for its generosity in sending (an ever-increasing number of) firefighters to help battle the enormous blazes engulfing much of the east coast of Australia. We are very grateful.
This Christmas has not been an easy one for many Australians. The countryside has been ravaged and even the cities which are usually a bastion of safety during bushfire season have been affected with houses burning only a few kilometres from my own home earlier this week. Australia has always had bushfires, but the current situation is unprecedented. Throughout the holiday period more and more people lost their homes with many now only having the clothes on their back. The new year has not brought with it any relief and as I write this letter vast areas of southeast Australia are being evacuated ahead of what is expected to be a deadly and dangerous weekend.
The fires began in November and are still burning and growing. Entire towns have been destroyed and more are expected to be lost this coming weekend, with no end in sight to the crisis. To put it in perspective, the situation would be the equivalent to every town between Sydney and Truro being either on fire or in immediate danger of catching on fire, with the Trans-Canada Highway being closed, people trapped in each town without power and with food and petrol quickly being depleted, also the navy being called in to rescue 4000 people stuck on a beach between a burning town and the ocean, and over 1000 homes completely destroyed. Can you even imagine that? I couldn’t until it happened. And bushfire season doesn’t usually begin until January…we fear and expect the worst is almost certainly yet to come.
If you would like to help, donations to the Australian Red Cross will help those who have lost everything, including loved ones, in the fires. You can donate by visiting www.redcross.org.au. Any amount will be of great help in getting people back on their feet.
This piece was originally published in the Cape Breton Post on 4 January 2020.