The city beautiful, the city dangerous

Canberra, Australia's capital, is one of several areas hit in the past few days by devastating fires causing great property damage and loss of life. An Australian colleague forwarded letters to the editor of the Melbourne Age discussing the connections between the city's much-praised design and the special severity of the devastation there. Here's one of them.
21 Jan 2003 p. 15
Crispin Hull, 'The surprising dividend to be found among the ashes'

'Canberra has the best infrastructure of any city in Australia. It is the best planned city in Australia. Yet the bushfire at the weekend claimed hundreds of homes and let a community stunned.

'Why? The key lies in the word itself - bushfire.

'In Australia, bushfires often claim the odd rural dwelling or a few houses when they reach the edge of a town or city.

'But Canberra is different. It is known as the Bush Capital. And if your city is bush, then it will be subject to bushfire in a way that other conurbations will not.

'In other places, the fire hits the edge of town and stops. In Canberra at
the weekend, the very fact that the city has been so beautifully planned was its nemesis. The flames did not meet a fire-resistant slab of urban development - of tar, cement and bricks. Instead they met trees.

No comments: