I'm not sure how far the news has travelled, but Australia has been hit with its worst bushfires in history, the toll now at (UPDATED 11/02/09) 173 dead and expected to rise as the areas affected are searched and especially since the fires are still burning. Fires have covered a great deal of southern Australia, affecting states Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales. Some of the fires were deliberately lit. Here is the latest BBC article about it: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7877178.stm (UPDATED 10/02/09) Here is an Australian newspaper summary, including further evidence of arson and a prediction of a death toll higher than 200: http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,2
At the same time, southern Australia has experienced a heatwave that has had numerous people hospitalised for heatstroke (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7860776.stm) and in far north Queensland, at the very top of Australia, flash flooding has taken at least (UPDATED 11/02/09) 7 lives, including a 5 year old boy who was taken by a crocodile after following his dog into the rising floodwaters (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7868854.stm). The floods have also destroyed property and homes but in a wonderful show of spirit, some of the flood sufferers have donated their disaster payment from the government to the Red Cross appeal for the bushfire victims.
Not to mention the ongoing drought which has affected farmers in central Australia for at least the last 5 years, destroying livelihood.
Native animals and pets are also hard hit. There have been quite adorable pictures circulating the net of the usually reclusive (and aggressive towards humans) koalas and other native wildlife drinking from cups handed to them by humans or from swimming pools or from hoses, but the reality is dire: the poor animals are dying of thirst and that thirst has overcome their natural fear of humans. Really saddening.
The need for immediate support, counselling, blood and financial assistance is enormous. In these harsh economic times, I know it's hard for people to help, but if you can, Australians and their wildlife and pets need your help!
** BLOOD (for Australian readers)
(UPDATED 11/02/09) Please note that while there is enough blood held at the moment you need to book for an appointment to give blood over the coming weeks so that burns' victims can get ongoing treatment. Blood can only be stored for approximately 5 days, so more donations will be necessary in the coming months.
** MONEY (Worldwide)
Australian Red Cross "Victoria Bushfire Appeal"
The Australian Red Cross has now set up a Victorian Bushfire Appeal. Donations can be made via http://www.redcross.org.au/vic/services_emergencyservices_victorian-bushfires-appeal-2009.htm
At this stage, the Red Cross is not accepting donations of goods and is unsure if they will set up an operation to do so. The above link has information as to why they are not accepting goods donations at this time, as well as detailed information as to how the money you donate will be applied.
Salvation Army donations - appeals for both Bushfire victims AND Flood victims
Donations to the Salvation Army can be made via http://salvos.org.au/.
Wildlife Victoria has set up an appeal and donations and information can be found http://www.wildlifevictoria.org.au/cms/index.php?option=com_wrapper&view=wrapper&Itemid=43
Wildlife Rescuers has a 'heatstress' appeal underway. They are requesting cash donations, fresh fruit and veg and cages/cardboard boxes for the animals to sleep in. http://www.wildliferescuers.org.au/Pages/heatstress.html
National Australia Bank donations
Donations can be made the the NAB by calling 132 622 (Australian number) or you can transfer your donation to the NAB via the internet.
Account Name: Victoria Bushfire Relief Fund
For those wishing to check the details independently, click on the banner across the top of www.nab.com.au
Bendigo Bank donations
To make a donation to the Bendigo Bank Appeal, go to their website http://shop.bendigobank.com.au/public/foundation/ or contact 1300 366 666.
AUSTRALIANS ONLY: shop on a specified day!
Wait until Friday, 13 February to shop at Coles as it is donating all its supermarkets' profits to the Victorian Bushfire Relief for that day.
Click here to view coles media release
Woolworths will be donating all its supermarkets' profits from the trading day of Friday, 20 February to support farmers and communities suffering the effects of the ongoing drought.
Click here to view Woolworths media release
Please help if you can but if not, spread the word.