Will we learn from the bushfire summer?

Indonesian flash flooding sweeps nearly 250 students into river leaving seven dead, three missing

indonesia floods

A mass search-and-rescue operation has been mounted to find the bodies and survivors of a tragic adventure that placed nearly 250 Indonesian students in the path of a torrential river surge.

Seven junior high school students have been confirmed dead and three remain missing after night fell in the swollen Sempor Valley north of Yogyakarta in central Java.

The entire group of 249 Year 7 and 8 students had set off on a “scouts” walk, described in Indonesian as ‘susur sungai’, or ‘follow the river’.

But the ill-judged activity in a region popular for organised outdoor adventures proved fatal for the teenagers when heavy rains gushed down the riverbed and swept them away or left others scrambling in desperation to escape up steep banks…


Will we learn from the bushfire summer? Not if the wrong questions are asked

Like hundreds of other volunteer firefighters, Jim Smith spent much of the summer on the back of a truck on the New South Wales south coast, trying to get his radio to work. “You’ve got your normal channel, you’ve got your divisional channel [for] who you’ll be working under, and another channel,” he says. “So it’s always confusing.”

Emergency services changed from analog to digital radios several years ago, but in the heart of a fire zone, with everyone trying to contact incident control and no two state firefighting organisations using the same radio protocols, it’s still hard to get through. “I know, for instance, we had a Queensland strike team down with us and we had great difficulty talking to them,” Smith says. “We need to spend a lot of time getting a national standard so everyone is able to contact each other.”

He hopes that establishing that national radio standard will be one of the issues tackled by the national royal commission into the 2019-20 bushfires….


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