CANBERRA, Jan. 18 . Residents of Australia’s capital gather to commemorate the anniversary of the most destructive bushfires in the city’s history.
Wednesday marked 20 years since the 2003 Australian Capital Territory (ACT) bushfires hit Canberra, causing widespread severe damage in the city and killing four people.
Community members have been invited to visit the ACT Bushfire Memorial at Stromlo Forest Park throughout Wednesday, with an official ceremony held at 6:30 pm local time.
Mick Gentleman, the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, said the fires were among the most tragic events in Canberra’s history.
“During this memorial period, our thoughts are with the victims of the 2003 bushfires – those who died, families who lost loved ones, those who were injured, those who lost their homes, as well as those who helped rebuild,” he said in a statement.
“A huge recovery effort has taken place over the years, and we acknowledge the many organizations and individuals who played crucial roles in the firefighting and recovery efforts.”
“One thing that has not changed is how Canberra comes together during times of crisis – 20 years on from the tragedy and we continue to demonstrate that partnership, strength, and resilience that makes up the fabric of our community.”
Several bushfires in the Brindabella Ranges on the border between the ACT and New South Wales (NSW) were ignited on Jan. 8, 2003 by lightning strikes.
Because of their low intensity and low rate of spread, they were not immediately extinguished by emergency services.
Ten days later, amid extreme fire weather conditions, the bushfires became one large blaze and rapidly spread east through rural land, plantations, nature reserves and Canberra’s western suburbs where fires continued to rage for several days.
Four people were killed, 435 were injured and more than 500 properties were destroyed.
Subsequent inquiries were critical to handling of the crisis, leading to the establishment of the Emergency Services Agency in 2004.
Earlier in January, a report found that the ACT’s preparedness for catastrophic fires has improved significantly since 2003 but noted the growing population presents a new risk factor.
As reported by Xinhua