Forces of na­ture

The Australian Women's Weekly - - Scholarship -

Sto­ries of hero­ism, of courage in the face of un­speak­able loss, and the rst-hand re­ports of those caught up in events, cap­tured the hearts and minds of read­ers when­ever the power of nat­u­ral forces and dis­as­ters struck. When Cy­clone Tracy hit Dar­win on Christ­mas Day in 1974, staff pho­tog­ra­pher Keith Barlow man­aged to nd the last seat on a Navy plane head­ing into the dis­as­ter zone with med­i­cal sup­plies the very next day. He de­scribed the dev­as­ta­tion as like Hiroshima and, along with the rest of Australia, could hardly be­lieve the ca­su­alty rate was so low. Seventy-one peo­ple were killed, and the en­su­ing evac­u­a­tion of the ru­ined city was the largest in Aus­tralian his­tory.

Aus­tralians re­acted gen­er­ously to the Nine Net­work Telethon that was un­der­way al­most im­me­di­ately, with The Weekly kick­ing off the event with a $25,000 do­na­tion.

A land of ex­tremes, of rag­ing res, de­bil­i­tat­ing drought and del­uges, Australia has been bat­tered by the fe­ro­cious power of na­ture yet emerged each time re­silient. From the Vic­to­rian heat­wave of 1938 that killed more than 400 and sparked a ter­ri­ble in­ferno in which an­other 71 died, to the Black Satur­day bush res of 2009 in which 173 peo­ple per­ished and thou­sands of build­ings were de­stroyed, The Weekly played a key role in re­port­ing on the events and gal­vanis­ing fundrais­ing ef­forts.

Tragedy brought with it tales of in­cred­i­ble sur­vival and re­silience, of life tri­umph­ing in the face of death. In New­cas­tle, three days after Christ­mas 1989, an earth­quake killed 13 and at­tened much of the city, in­clud­ing the New­cas­tle Work­ers Club, where nine peo­ple died. But the spirit of the tough city, forged in its steel­works, mines and dock­yards, shone later that sum­mer at a re­lief rock con­cert at­tended by 40,000 which raised al­most $1 mil­lion.

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