Emergency warnings

Not long ago, I complained, with such unfailing consistency, about the insensitive intensity of Canberra’s sun. It was less than three months ago, but feels like an eternity already.

When I first encountered the ferocity of the spring sun, I was aghast. Having grown up in a tropical country where it was almost always 30 degrees Celsius during the day, even the coldest time of the year hovered in the late 20s.

I couldn’t imagine what the summer would bring. That’s why Canberra’s 35-degree dry, dry heat drained me from sanity.

However, Like any other person, I learnt tactics to survive the heat. I bought sunscreens and stayed indoors more. I felt reasonably prepared for summer.

Spring sprang, and then before it settled, a hot flash blew it away, replacing it with a heatwave. It was just before the beginning of summer when we first heard instances of bushland going up in flames. And then overnight, one after the other fires swept down national parks, homes, and livelihoods.

Well before the fire season had started, we had more uncontrollable fires than we could comprehend. Numbers made no sense as newscasters spelled out the thousands of hectares of greenery, now scorched. Native Australian wilderness and wildlife went from safe, to endangered, to probably extinct. Not even hope survived.

More than 4000 people spent the first of January in the ocean, the only safe place from the advancing fires. Like a freshly laid bedspread, smoke blanketed the air, ash the ground.

No one could bring themselves to say Happy New Year. Happiness seemed so unrealistic.

In the days that followed, the heat rose from the late 30s to 40s. More than half of Kangaroo Island burnt. Victoria declared a state of disaster. NSW declared a state of emergency, and the ACT, a state of alert. But then, when the Bureau of Meteorology predicted thunderstorms, some of us were thrilled. But most were alarmed. And they were right, too— those storms brought lightning that started more fires. No rain.

The country faced the hottest and driest year ever since record-keeping began. Rapid wind currents fuelled fires all over.

And then one day, Canberra, Sydney, and Melbourne had hailstorms. Gigantic balls of ice pelted down from the sky, shattering thousands of car windshields, permanently maiming perfectly good vehicles. Temperatures dropped to less than 20 degrees in a day. Two days later, we soared back to the 40s.

When it seemed like the summer would never end, the city came down in rains. For two days in a row, Canberra has had steady and mild rains, seeping through dry cracks, kissing dusty leaves, and brushing aside soot that had settled on garden patches. Sydney and Melbourne, however, has had far more damaging rains, with flash flooding affecting train routes and landslides uprooting some railway tracks entirely.

Here’re the top news in Canberra in the last seven days:

  • A fire that’s still active, even after burning through 87000+ hectares (870 square km)
  • The spread of Coronavirus
  • More rains recorded in the weekend than the last two years combined
  • Flash flooding across various cities
  • A small earthquake in Western Australia
  • A major cyclone with wind speeds over 200km/hour in Western Australia

Could there be a clearer indication of climate emergency?

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