Australian firefighter’s anguish at leaving town to its fate

February 11th, 2009 - 12:09 pm ICT by IANS  

“We had people banging on the sides of our tanker begging us to go back to houses where they knew people were trapped,” Munday told The Australian newspaper Wednesday. “But we couldn’t because if we had, we’d all be dead too.”

Only a dozen buildings remain standing in Marysville, formerly a picture-perfect mountain resort 100 km north of Melbourne that was home to around 500.

“There were children running down the streets with flames behind them … we knew there were people in homes that were on fire and they had no hope.”

Munday ordered his truck to press on to the local park, where he and his crew stayed until the firestorm barrelled through a town that Melbourne folk used to know as a pleasant coffee stop of the way to the ski resorts in the Victorian Alps.

“The whole town died around us as we bunkered down on the outside of the oval, ringed funeral pyres, while all around us we had the screaming noise of gas cylinders exploding in homes,” he said. “The only way we could have saved them was to put ourselves on the altar and put a sword to our own hearts.”

There are fears that Marysville lost more than one in five of its residents in Saturday’s forest fires in the hills above Melbourne that may have claimed more than 200 lives.

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