Nationa[euro][TM]s Shock and Awe; A Land of Droughts and Flooding Rains, Our Nation Is Prone to Weather Extremes. We Look Back at Some of Our Worst Disasters

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Byline: Vani Naidoo

AUSTRALIAaS geography and climate make it a magnet for natural disasters such as cyclones, bushfires, storms, heatwaves and floods. That these disasters tend to be seasonal and successive doesnat help matters.

We look at some of the worst natural disasters Australians have endured (in order of severity) in terms of loss of life and damage to buildings and property.

Black Saturday Bushfires, Victoria, 2009: On February 7, the worst bushfires in Australiaas history tore through parts of Victoria, killing 173 people, displacing more than 7500 people and destroying more than 2000 homes.

They burned through more than 4500sqkm of land and devastated the towns of Kinglake, Marysville and Narbethong north-east of Melbourne.

Firefighters were holding their own until a change in wind direction caused the fire to turn back to towns that had earlier escaped the flames.

Floods, Queensland, Victoria and NSW, December 2010 a January 2011: Beginning with rain in September 2010, this is probably the most notorious flood in Australian history. Three-quarters of Queensland was declared a disaster zone.

There was widespread flooding through Emerald, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Bundaberg, Maryborough, Gympie, Condamine and Chinchilla with countless smaller towns isolated.

A flash flood raced through Toowoomba, creating an inland sea with water from the same storm devastating communities in the Lockyer Valley. The water was nearly eight metres high by the time it reached Grantham and the town didnat stand a chance.

The Brisbane River broke its banks late on January 11 and by the time it peaked at 4.46m two days later, 28,000 homes had been inundated.

The Bremer River at Ipswich reached 19.4m on January 12, flooding the CBD and 3000 houses.

Ash Wednesday Bushfires, Victoria and South Australia, 1983: Victoria had been experiencing severe drought conditions for almost 10 months but on February 16 the dry conditions combined with a heatwave, low humidity and strong winds to spark a horrendous inferno.

More than 16,000 firefighters battled 180 fires from the Adelaide Hills to east of Melbourne that claimed 75 lives, destroyed 2500 homes and blackened 300,000 hectares of land. …