IT is the middle of the deep and dark winter in the northern hemisphere, but way down in the southern hemisphere of our Earth in Australia, bushfires which have been raging for four months now have are now advancing and threatening the country’s capital Canberra.
Fires were reported out of control in the Australian Capital Territory, with the worst blaze just a 20-minute drive south of Parliament House in Canberra. The temperature climbed to 42 degrees Celsius as the fire, fuelled by strong winds, continued to spread.
The Canberra fire has now destroyed over 35,800 hectares of forest and farmland with about 400,000 residents. This is about the area of Clark Green City in Central Luzon and half of Metro Manila’s 64,000 hectares. In the entire country, 11 million hectares of land have now been scorched; that’s about the size of Mindanao.
We are fortunate that fires of such magnitude do not happen in our country. We have our rains to thank for this. Local rainstorms are common in our islands. We also have the “habagat” winds bearing water vapor evaporating from the equatorial areas in the southwest starting in May. Then we have the heavy rains brought by the typhoons and tropical depressions blowing from the Pacific at various times of the year.
We deplore the floods that these rains bring, but without them, our lands would not be as green as they are today. They would be more like the arid areas in Australia which are now suffering from uncontrolled bushfires, mostly in the southeast part of the continent, and now directly threatening the national capital Canberra itself.
But before our rains come in May, we will have to go through the hot summer season which begins in about a month. We had a particularly hot and storm-less summer last year, so that the water level at Angat Dam fell below critical levels and water rationing hit eastern Metro Manila. We trust that the plans we approved last year – including the development of new dams and other water sources, are proceeding as scheduled.
Meanwhile, we continue to watch Australia’s raging fires, hoping it will be able to stop them, especially the one that now threatens the capital Canberra.