First Bushfire Catastrophe Hits Australia in 2013
By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | January 7, 2013 3:25 PM EST
Barely a few days into the first month of the new year 2013 and Australia has experienced its first worst bushfire catastrophe in the state of Tasmania where more than 100 people have been reported missing and more than 100 properties ravaged down by more than 40 burning bushfires.
This as Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard continued to encourage and rally on each of the firefighters, hailing their "great Australian mateship," who continued non-stop to contain the devastating wildfires in the island-state of Tasmania.
Although no official figures have been released by the Tasmanian government, it is believed that damages of the severe fire conditions which started on December 27, could eclipse that of the 2009 Victoria state wildfires which killed 173 people and caused $4.4 billion worth of damage.
"To all of those people, we are thinking of you in moments of grief and despair," Ms Gillard told reporters at the fire authority headquarters in Hobart on Monday. "We stand with you at this difficult time."
"A number of people know their home has been destroyed, but as yet for safety reasons they haven't been able to . . . see the damage for themselves."
Although the fires have been contained, "it's (still) very important (that) people remain vigilant," Lara Giddings, Tasmanian premier, warned.
"I understand the frustration of people who want to get back to see what's happened to their home," Ms Gillard said as she urged people to obey the instructions of emergency services.
"The thing that would be worse . . . would be to try to go and see it and get hurt doing so."
According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the record heat wave that started in Western Australia on December 27 which lasted eight days, was the strongest in more than 80 years. It is likewise the widest-ranging heat wave in more than a decade as it spread east across the nation.
Ms Gillard warned the nation, the world's driest inhabited continent, to be on alert as temperatures are forecast to soar even more in the coming days.
"We live in a country that is hot and dry, and where we sustain very destructive fires periodically, so there is always going to be risk," she told reporters.
"We do know over time that as a result of climate change we are going to see more extreme weather events and conditions."
Meanwhile, Australia has created a national phone number to register details of people directly or indirectly affected by the Tasmanian bushfires. The number is 1800-727-077.
No deaths have so far been accounted in the Tasmanian bushfires despite the more than 100 people missing, according to police.
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