“Church Responds to Deadly Wildfires in Australia,” Liahona, June 2009, N5
Roaring wildfires, fed by fierce winds and lingering drought, spread across southern Australia in January and February, killing at least 200 people, destroying more than 800 homes, and consuming thousands of acres of vegetation. Three member families are among those whose homes were destroyed.
The wildfires are being called the worst natural disaster in Australia’s history; however, police believe some of the wildfires may have been intentionally started.
The fires razed entire rural towns. In Victoria, several communities were still at risk, with 30 fires still burning. As disaster crews made their way deeper into disaster zones, they anticipated the death toll would rise.
Australia had fire safety plans in force; however, scorching temperatures, drought, tinder-dry bush, and fast-moving winds that constantly changed directions increased the ferocity of the wildfires and seemed to catch many residents by surprise.
All members and missionaries were accounted for. One member, whose home was destroyed, was hospitalized because of heart complications. The fires did not damage any Church buildings.
The Church made a monetary donation to the Australian Red Cross disaster fund, and many members volunteered to help in emergency shelters and in the cleanup process.
Australia experiences wildfires every year. The previous most deadly bushfire in Australia was in February 1983 on what is now called Ash Wednesday, when 75 people died.