Australia Wildfires

This aerial photo shows homes destroyed by a wildfire near Boomer Bay, in southern Australia, on Saturday. Pic: AP.

As temperatures soar across Australia, aided by strong winds, wildfires are rife. According to the Associated Press, the mercury climbed to 42 degrees Celsius (108 Fahrenheit) on Friday before dropping a bit on Saturday. This was in the city of Hobart on the island of Tasmania. Temperatures in both Southern Australia and Western Australia have reached a whopping 48 C (118 F) according to Al Jazeera.

Smoke over Hobart, pic: Tone Edge (Flickr CC)

So far 80 buildings have been destroyed by fire in Dunley, a small town near Hobart which has suffered the most damage from this year’s wildfires. Hundreds in Tasmania are homeless. In total, it is estimated that 40 wildfires or “bush fires”, are active on Tasmania.

(READ MORE: Wildfires rage across Tasmania)

From the Guardian:

Wildfires are common during the Australian summer. In February 2009, hundreds of fires across Victoria state killed 173 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes.

Though less tragic in terms of human life, an apparent arson attack in Alice Springs on two ghost gum trees has been described as “heartbreaking” by local tribal elder Baydon Williams.

Two trees? Well, these are not just any trees. They were set to be added to a national heritage register. Ghost gum trees have a special significance for Australia’s aboriginal community. They feature in myths and have also been used as a traditional cold remedy.

Williams is quoted by the BBC:

Those two trees symbolised a lot of sacred areas and songlines and marking of boundaries of different skin groups and different clans. To see the trees and the way it was burned, I could feel the land, the soil around it, the area is angry and it is sad.

Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira (1902-1959), a resident of Alice Springs, brought attention to ghost gum trees through his acclaimed paintings of the central Australian landscape.

Ghost gum trees, pic: Alison Young (Flickr CC)