One of the many trucks of donations being unloaded at the warehouse for sorting and distribution to those affected by the bush fires.
Victorian Bush Fire Diary: Wednesday, February 11th, 2009 – DAY FIVE
We are heading back to the show grounds for another real meal to start off our busy day at the relief donations warehouse. We are amazed that more refugees are not accepting the generous offer of those at the show grounds – the other day one of the base camp staff actually dared us to overwhelm them with people needing meals, showers, a place to watch some tele with their kids, and even a tent for sleeping in some cases.
Kelly has a big day ahead of him, co-coordinating truck loads of donations at the warehouse.
I am not much better off than I was last night, and am feeling quite emotional. Every time I closed my eyes to try to sleep, all I could see was fire, and fire-related scenarios. Two nights spent on a hard floor in a pub is also taking a physical toll on me.
The good news? I can see the sky. Smoke still surrounds us, but it has dissipated enough to show us a little sun. The bad news is that the winds (dissipating the smoke) are not good for containing and putting out the fire.
News from firefighters this morning is that the fires close to Alexandra were “quiet” last night. Nothing is said of the giant columns of smoke that remain in the sky south of us. I guess “quiet” is all relative when you are talking about bush fires.
I wander into the chemist. People everywhere are looking at me with pity – I obviously look lost. I need nail clippers and want just a little bit of makeup – something to make me feel pretty, or at least human. I am given free samples by the kind and compassionate staff.
I decide to take a break from volunteering today to write. I hope to publish some positive news stories “from the inside” to both Canadian and Australian papers. I figure a fresh and different perspective could be marketable.
The death toll is over 180 people. And counting.
After taking the morning to write, I spend the afternoon at the warehouse. Kelly is coordinating the receiving and sorting of donations (of clothing, bedding, linens, toiletries, food, etc) from around the country. His miniature army of volunteers is currently unloading a 40ft truck from Queensland, packed to the max with brand new supplies. The drivers just got off the road from Queensland (over 19 hours drive time), and plan to hop back in the truck right away and drive back there. Incredible.
The irony of this donation arriving in the face of Queensland currently being underwater with floods does not escape any of us.
We arrive at our weekly Rotary meeting (an hour late due to the arrival of the truck from Queensland), and discuss issues related to relief. We are completely overwhelmed at the warehouse with donations, and have actually had to say “no” to further donations of second hand clothing and goods which continue to come through. We have run out of space in the warehouse, and still need to sort through most of it. It comes in considerably faster that it can be dealt with.
To add insult to injury (or blessing upon blessing depending on how you look at it), we leave the Rotary meeting early to unload two more trucks that arrive at 8:45pm.