The Australian state of Victoria has been
suffering from a drought for the last 50 years. On Saturday 7
February 2009, winds of more than 100 km/h coincided with
temperatures in excess of 40 ļC. These conditions turned a
bushfire into a firestorm.
Smoke was first seen at twenty past eleven on
Saturday morning near Kilmore, outside of Melbourne, the state
capital. By the evening the firestorm had killed 200 people,
obliterated five towns and destroyed 3,500 buildings. It took
60,000 firefighters two weeks to beat the flames and by then,
7,500 people had lost everything they had.
The images of total destruction are shocking
and the fact that the fires were started deliberately is
impossible for anyone to understand. But it is not the photofit
images of the arsonists or photos of the black landscape that
used to be five Australian towns, that has caught the attention
of people all around the world. The image of Black Saturday is a
fireman giving a drink of water from a bottle to a burnt koala
The animal is literally holding the firemanís
hand as she drinks. Even stranger is seeing a koala drink, as
they obtain all their water from eating leaves. The fireman said
the koala had reached out for the bottle and put her other paw
in his hand. He said it was amazing.
The fireman, Mr Tree, is a volunteer with
the County Fire Authority in Victoria. He is now a celebrated
hero around the planet and shares the same publicist as Mick
Jagger, singer with the Rolling Stones pop group.
The koala is also famous. Her name is Sammie
and she was taken to Southern Ash Wildlife Shelter to be treated
for burns to her paws. Her carer, called Ms. Woods, said it
would take five months for Sammie to get better.
Sammie met Bob, another koala recovering at
the shelter. Ms Woods said that they were inseparable and that
Bob kept giving Sammie hugs.
Mr Tree has been to visit Sammie and was
introduced to her new boyfriend Bob. Mr Tree said that his heart
went out to all the people affected by the fires and that the
love story of Sammie and Bob would give people some hope for the
Mr Tree met Ms. Woods. But we do not know if
he kept giving her hugs.