OMG!!!!!!! I am reading through the online news! Our R.S.P.C.A is gone!!!!!!!! All those animals!!! The shelter is totally destroyed! This is a dark day indeed!
Canberra's darkest day
By Peter Clack
Sunday, 19 January 2003
Two people are dead and three more were feared to have perished yesterday in the most devastating fire disaster in Canberra's history. There were unparalleled scenes of chaos in Canberra's suburbs as a massive week-old bushfire finally burst through the city's western perimeter on a 10km front and destroyed up to 100 homes across 19 suburbs and rural settlements.
The suddenness of the onslaught, heralded by billowing clouds of choking black smoke, caught residents by surprise early yesterday afternoon and found fire crews unable to cope.
Police fear for three other people who they believe may have lost their lives when homes collapsed. They were carrying out house-to-house checks last night.
Early accounts of damage have reached $100 million, but police, fire and emergency services, having fought the fires to a standstill yesterday, are bracing themselves for another desperate effort today.
Chief Minister Jon Stanhope declared a state of emergency and full powers were transferred under disaster management legislation to Chief Police Officer John Murray. Mr Stanhope called it "total devastation".
Late last night police were evacuating residents in streets in Cook as spreading fires threatened homes in north Canberra.
However, Duffy was the first casualty, losing as many as 40 homes as firefighting resources were overwhelmed by the ferocity of a fire driven on by 40km/h winds and soaring temperatures.
Streets resembled war-time destruction, with houses reduced to smouldering shells, flanked by downed power poles, arcing power lines and wrecked and abandoned cars.
"I know mine's gone. My mate's has gone. All my medals are lost. I've lost my wife and daughter and I can't find them anywhere," Duffy resident Alan Latta said.
As homeowners, neighbours and firefighters fought bravely shoulder to shoulder, a man was arrested for looting in Duffy.
Power and water pressure failures across the city undermined the efforts by 500 firefighters and 100 police, who fought a game rearguard action in more than 40-degree heat, and with visibility reduced to a few metres. Thick smoke haze grounded the fleet of 14 helicopters for most of the day.
Among dozens of horrifying spectacles, the BP service station in Duffy became a fireball, the RSPCA was lost, and TAFE at Weston, the Australian Defence College and Kambah Fire Station were damaged.
Police climbed on to the roof of the police forensic and computer centre at Weston, before the building was saved.
Flaming embers driven ahead by the wind rained fire down on hundreds of houses, igniting parklands and trees, destroying gardens and leaving cars and homes in flames. In other areas, fires were caused by exploding power lines.
Dramatic and desperate individual scenes of bravery unfolded as home-owners, their families and neighbours fought side-by-side in a losing battle to save their homes and possessions from the flames. Many houses disappeared in less than 15 minutes.
Thousands were forced into the streets in shock and disbelief.
Another 30 suburbs were considered at grave risk last night. Dozens more and perhaps hundreds of victims sought medical attention, stretching hospital resources in Canberra.
Four evacuation centres were providing emergency accommodation last night to 2000 families displaced by the inferno.
The Australian Federal Police has called in 75 reinforcements for today to bolster its force of 100, who struggled with yesterday's multitude of evacuations.