People waking up in southern Australia right now are in for a dismal newsbreak. Overnight, seven more homes were lost to a great wildfire outbreak that's crept into the metropolitan boundaries of Melbourne, darkening skies with smoke and suffusing the land with a hellish glow.
Bushfires have charred to oblivion a confirmed total of 21 houses and "several hundred thousand hectares of land," reports 9 News Melbourne. A great aggravator of this blaze, as well as Australia's unusually severe fire season, is a rash of warm and arid weather that's left vegetation as desiccated as matchsticks. According to 9 News:
[Victorian Fire Services Commissioner Craig] said the fire crisis will continue until Victoria gets significant rain.
"The fact that we are seeing these fires still run in conditions that aren't extremely hot, not very strong winds and they're running really hard, it tells you that the dry conditions remain and until we get rain in Victoria this won't go away," he said.
The state was in for a long fire season through to the end of February, he said.
As of today, there are at least two-dozen conflagrations hissing around Victoria and some 2,500 firefighters battling them. A large chunk of the region remains under a "very high" fire-danger risk, according to the County Fire Authority. In good news, a government fire strategist is predicting that the weather this week "is in our favour quite a bit," a statement backed up by the less-frightening bushfire forecast for the next few days.
Footage coming out of Victoria shows just how welcome a development that would be. Here's the scene on Sunday night as seen from the airplane seat of Sarah Addis. The "glow across the horizon was everywhere," she said:
This is a pilot's view from Cambuntu:
The sky has been the unsettling color of a ripe mango:
Alexis Daish, a correspondent for 9 News, has been out in the field capturing scenes of the flames and their ashy aftermath. Here's a wildfire near the town of Kilmore, about 35 miles north of Melbourne. Residents of Kilmore have told the media that the damage is "horrendous," with one man saying, "You could just see houses exploding, it was absolutely incredible":
And these are properties that did and didn't survive their brush with doom: