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Two Dead, 400 Homes Lost, As Canberra Burns; Disaster Not Yet Over

Daylight in Australia’s capital territory has revealed the full extent of the firestorm that struck yesterday.

Media outlets report this morning that 2 people are dead, 3 more are missing, and around 400 homes have been destroyed.

Canberra is ringed by fires to the north, west and south as the disaster continues to unfold.

Hot, windy and dry weather conditions threaten the nation’s capital with more devastation this Sunday.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, who chose to live in Sydney following his election in 1996, is cutting short his holiday to return to Canberra. The Governor-General, Peter Hollingworth, is also returning.

Sky News is reporting criticism from Canberra residents of the lack of support from fire services during the peak of yesterday’s crisis. One man, Dr. Butterfield, has spoken of threats of arrest by police and of fire engines driving through fire areas “as if they were sightseers”.

The ACT’s Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope, has defended the emergency services, claiming there was no way they could have responded to the overwhelming crisis yesterday without at least 800 fully-equipped trucks.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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