May 21, 2009

Australian Wildfires Had Intensity Of 1500 Atomic Bombs

A series of deadly wildfires in Australia contained the intensity of 1,500 Hiroshima atomic bombs, Melbourne University fire behavior specialist Kevin Tolhurst reported Thursday.

The so-called "Black Saturday" fires broke out in February, killing 173 people.

Tolhurst told the Black Saturday royal commission that the 100-meter high fires created enough energy within just a few hours to power Victoria's industrial and domestic energy needs for an entire year.

"It's an enormous amount of energy," said Tolhurst.

The commission headed by former Supreme Court judge Bernard Teague. It is seeking to better understand how the fire got out of hand and produced so much devastation so quickly.

Tolhurst added that any attempts to control the blazes were futile.

"There's no way you would be able to stop the fire," he said.

Record high temperatures, strong winds and countrysides under the impact of drought intensified the fires.

According to The Australian, Tolhurst told the commission that flames reached temperatures of 1200C.

"The energy of the fires was equivalent to more than 1500 atomic bombs the size of the one used at Hiroshima, which devastated an area equivalent to 2000ha, but bushfires release their energy in a storm, not a blast," he said.

The blaze caused 237,000 hectares to go up in flames. The rate of burning was increased by a cold front, which created a "horror situation."

"That's the worst situation you can have," said Tolhurst.

The change in wind direction caused fires to flare up and resulted in 80 percent of the damage occurring on the first day.

The commission is expected to release its interim findings by August.


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