The Victorian fires were Australia’s worst national disaster since Federation, Rudd said in a joint statement with other government officials. A service was held at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne’s central business district to pay tribute to the 173 lives lost on February 7th 2009, the date that’s come to be known as “Black Saturday.”
“February 7 will forever be etched in the nation’s memory as a day of mourning, but also one of tremendous spirit and inspiration,” PM Kevin Rudd said. “The tragedy brought out the best of the Australian character and inspired countless acts of bravery and generosity.”
As the “Black anniversary” came up, expat Martha Milionis who lost her children, Dimitris and Tania Tsimiklis to the fire, sent a message to the media, in which she accuses the fire department and the authorities for the extent of the fire. She states:
“On this day the fire department, on seeing the extent that the fires were taking due to the strong winds, made the decision from 1.00 pm not to perform their duty. They protected themselves and their cars and left the people to their fates. For me, that’s what the fire department did on that “black day”.
“We made a mistake”, they said, but we are the ones paying for that mistake, the people who paid for it with their lives and us, who lost them. This tragic mistake cannot, in any way, be corrected, especially for me. It is unjustifiable, it is a crime and not a mistake.
Evacuations should be made compulsory where there are fires, and the nonsense should stop, like leaving their houses early or staying to protect their properties. Compulsory evacuations, so that this evil is never repeated. On that Saturday, when they had been warned about the bad weather, they should have blocked off the roads so no one could have got through to King Lake. They should have driven everyone nuts with the news on the radio and on tv and to try to use every possible medium – the army, police- and altogether with all means possible to inform people and save them from a horrible death. Unfortunately, none of what I mentioned occurred.
Had they blocked off the roads, our Tania wouldn’t have been able to get home and she would have phoned Dimitri to inform him in time to get out of there. If all this had been properly arranged, we would not have lost our Dimitri and our Tania and so many others.
It is an embarrassment for a country as rich as Australia, that they didn’t have the means to inform people residing in the country, when disaster arrives.