Resilience amid the ashes
The testimony of the survivors speaks of the awfulness of this tragedy.
People who managed to escape down roads lined with burning gum trees, whose cars caught on fire in the furnace-like heat. People who thought they had hours to leave their homes, when in fact they had minutes. One man said he hardly had time to react let alone move, so fast were the advancing walls of flames. Another siphoned off the water from the radiator of his vehicle as he tried to save the life of a neighbour who'd been set alight.
At a local relief centre there are many people not only looking for aid but for relatives that are missing. For many, the only possessions they have left are the clothes they are standing in. One distraught woman said she was taking things not day by day, but hour by hour.
Often they want to go back to see what's left of their homes, but in many instances the police are stopping them. The roads going into towns like Kinglake have been blocked by police because they are viewed not just as disaster zones but as crime scenes.
Some people have managed to return. In the hills above Wandago where dream homes once dotted the beautiful landscape, I met John Pyle, who was surveying what was left of his home. He'd lived there for thirty years, raised four children. But all that was left were cindery and ashen remains. His coin collection. The photographs of his children. His wife's jewellery. But his resilience was extraordinary. He would rebuild on the same spot, and he invited us to come back in a year's time to visit his new home.
Just down the road, there was another burnt out home, with cinders lying on the surface of the swimming pool and a burnt out four-by-four in the driveway. Next to it was a flagpole, up which someone had hoisted the Australian flag, which was flying at half mast.
The following report is from the Today programme this morning: