Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fires, near and far

I want to be open minded and not be judgemental, but how could any think setting fire atop a mountain in the dry season, during a major drought be a good idea?

Photo from the Times
Also from the Times (a different article):
At least four mountain climbers were killed and 30 others injured as of 11:00 p.m. Monday in a mountain stampede during a traditional grass-burning event in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province.

A fire set by municipal officials on a pampas grass field on top of Mount Hwawang flared out of control due to an unexpected wind, forcing onlookers to jump off a cliff, witnesses said.

Casualties are expected to rise as more than 15,000 people participated in the event, held every three years to mark the first full moon of the Lunar New Year.

Organizers set up a 50-meter-wide block to protect the spectators from the fire, but the wind was so strong that they did not have enough time to flee the scene, police said.

Another area facing horrible fires, also probably started by humans, but not by officials, is Victoria, Australia. From the Asia section of the New York Times:

Police have so far confirmed 181 deaths as the fires ripped across the southern state of Victoria on Saturday. But the state’s premier, John Brumby, said more than 50 people remained missing Tuesday afternoon.

“These are people who the coroner believes are already deceased but are not yet identified,” Mr. Brumby said. “So this is going to be a significant number, it will exceed 200 deaths.”

Officials declared crime scenes across huge tracts of land where dozens of victims died in their cars or huddled in their houses during the worst wildfires in Australian history.

The Victorian state police commissioner, Christine Nixon, told a local radio station on Tuesday that one of the fires, which killed at least 21 people in the eastern region of Gippsland, was deliberately set, and police “believe there may be more.”

My best wishes to all those in Victoria.


Masuro said...

There were many irresponsible people at the full moon festival I attended and the officials there did a good job of keeping them away from the big fire. Or from starting the big fire themselves by accident.
I certainly hope the idiots who started the grass fire near Seoul get punished severely. And I hope that grass burning event gets banned in the future. Preserving culture is good but not if it risks lives.

PAKA said...

another perfect example of "forward" thinking and planning by koreans.

kwandongbrian said...

I was a forest ranger in Ontario one summer. The previous summer, a group of rangers were called in to help fight a fire and many died. It's easy to underestimate fires.

Although the fire Changnyeong was horrible, I would be more upset if a similar fire occurred in Yangyang; after the Naksan fire, they should be a model for the rest of the country.