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Australian state facing biggest severe bushfire risk in history: scientist

Xinhua, February 8, 2017 Adjust font size:

Victoria is at a greater risk of severe bushfires than ever before, a leading scientist has warned.

David Peckham, a former bushfire scientist with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), said that Victoria could soon be hit by bushfires worse than those on Black Saturday in February 2009 in which 173 people were killed.

Peckham said the potential of another series of fatal bushfires hitting Victoria infuriated him because they could be preventable if governments took appropriate action.

"The situation is very, very serious. This state has never been in a more dangerous situation in the last 30,000 years. We are sitting, truly, on a little pile of gun powder and smoking cigarettes," Peckham told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Wednesday.

"What we are looking down is the fires that have taken place that culminated up into Black Saturday, fundamentally all the early ones which burnt about a third of the state in 2003 and 2007, all took place north of the ranges in areas where there weren't too many people exposed.

"Black Saturday exposed a few more, but not really great numbers, compared to places like say Eltham, Warrandyte where you have not a few hundred or the odd thousand but tens of thousands of people exposed."

Peckham said he feared another large bushfire could cause massive environmental damage.

"As the Indigenous people are so correctly saying, (the bush) needs so much healing. Ever since human occupation here 30, 40, 50,000 years it's never been like this. We are sitting in a terrible situation," he said.

Peckham recalled waking up at 3am local time on Black Saturday with a bad feeling and analysis of weather data did nothing to dispel his uneasiness.

"What I saw just terrified me," he said.

"The fire danger index was right through the roof. I remember saying, 'I hope I'm wrong about this'. It was clear it was going to be a monumental day." Endit