A TYRONE man who is preparing to return to Australia next week, has spoken of his shock at the recent escalation in the wildfires which have engulfed huge swathes of the country.
Peter McMahon who is from Derrylaughan flew home to Ireland for the Christmas holidays with his young family. He has been glued to the daily news reports on television and online, detailing the relentless spread of the devastating fires which have claimed lives, destroyed thousands of homes and killed millions of mammals and birds.
Last week, the Australian navy was drafted in to rescue 1,000 people who were trapped in a coastal town in Victoria, where a state of emergency was declared.
In his adopted city of Sydney, Peter says many people have been forced to wear masks to avoid breathing in the toxic plumes of smoke which have blanketed huge areas of Australia.
“There is a lot of anger on the ground in Australia, particularly with the Premier (Prime Minister Scott Morrison). People have refused to sake his hand, because of his treatment of the fire-fighters. To be honest, he has made the whole situation even worse.
“Before I left to come home for Christmas, there was smoke everywhere. I live on the eastern suburbs of Sydney, which isn’t that close to the fires. But my workplace is in the western suburbs and the fires are only about 40 or 50k away, so it’s pretty bad.
“The whole country is suffering, I don’t the think the news reports really show how bad it is. There are fires burning all across Australia and it’s devastating to see people killed and losing their homes.”
Back in November, Peter organised a mercy-mission convoy, with over 90 lorries delivering water and vital supplies to the drought-stricken region of Armidale. He is planning another convoy at the end of February and says he has been overwhelmed by the offers of help for the second trip.
“Everyone who took part in the first convoy have agreed to go again and my phone has been going flat out with other offers of help,” he said.
“This could be twice as big as the first convoy. There is a lot of planning and organisation involved, but after the reception we had when we arrived in Armidale, it was worth all the effort and the situation is obviously much worse now.”