Thursday, February 12, 2009



By Eric K. Williams(

Special to YOUR FREE PRESS)Melbourne, Australia -

The death toll stands at 181 but, police in Victoria are expecting that number to rise significantly upwards, with scores of people still unaccounted for and, among the missing. What's more, while many of the fires were started because of the hot and dry conditions, there is the assumption on the part of police and, the Prime Minister, Kevin Ruud, that a number of the fires were set deliberately. There is video tape evidence to back this up. Two suspects are in custody as investigations continue. 30 fires are STILL burning around Victoria as of this writing. No rain in the forecast.

The current heat wave has subsided at the moment but, is expected to return early next week. Forecasts call for more 40-plus degree Celsius temperatures starting on Monday. Last Saturday, the temperature hit 48.7 degrees Celsius in much of Victoria. It was 46 in Melbourne city, proper. The highest temps EVER recorded in this state. Translated that is about 120 degrees Fahrenheit in U.S. measurements. What is odd is that while Victoria burns, there is heavy rain and flooding in the Australian state of Queensland to the north. Streets are flooded and, rescue teams are present there now.

This follows mass flooding in the Pacific Island nation of Fiji, north and east of Australia, from mid-January. There are brush fires underway now in New Zealand but, not on the scale of what has taken place in Australia. On Friday, the 13th of February, (Thursday in the U.S. and Europe,) there will be a national day of mourning called by the Prime Minister, Kevin Ruud. Large gatherings are expected at St. Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne, where I will be this morning. Similar events are scheduled in most of the rest of the country. Nearly everyone I have spoken to and, know here in Melbourne, has been touched by this spate of heat and, brush fires. That is, they either have a friend or relative who has been touched by this event, or know someone who has.

One friend, whose elderly 80 plus year old father was in a nursing home just north of Melbourne, died last Saturday. Much of the U.S. media has not paid close attention to this story and, regard it as being 'too far away' from the Americas for U.S. audiences to care. In truth, the story warrants wide and detailed coverage because, this is the clearest case yet of Global Warming, having a major impact on a fellow industrialized nation. This could happen in the United States and, besides, there are American ex-patriots I know personally, who were directly touched by this phenomena.

What makes this scary is that even the occasional high winds offer no relief. The air, blowing down from northern Australia, is as hot as a furnace and, further dries already dry conditions. Complicating matters even further is the drought. Victorian government officials, for example, had been airing 'save water' public service announcements on local television stations in recent weeks. In Melbourne less than three weeks ago, a water main broke in the Northcote district of this city, as millions of gallons of water shot over 20 meters high into the air and, spewed down sewers and was lost. Politically there is a debate among federal lawmakers in Canberra, the national capital, over the stimulus package and, spending on infrastructure.

The measure, advanced and supported by the Labor party led government, was defeated days after the height of the heat wave and brush fire emergency. This story is changing by the hour as I write this but, the Summer season is at mid-point. That means, the very likelihood of this current emergency repeating itself is not only possible but, scientists believe, probable.
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