It was like a war zone, says Malaysian who volunteered in Aussie bushfire cleanup

  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 14 Jan 2020

PETALING JAYA: The devastation caused by the bushfires in Australia is something that Malaysian Desmond Flaivel has never seen before and describes the aftermath akin to a war zone.

"The landscape facing us was desolate in the full context of its meaning, a sort of grey lull hanging in the air with white and grey ash on the ground.

"Once lush green trees reduced to black stumps with minimal if not a very few leaves barely hanging on," the 46-year-old from Alor Setar told The Star.

Desmond has been volunteering with the State Emergency Services (SES), being part of the a unit deployed to the Adelaide Hills Fire Grounds in Cudlee Creek and Loberthal for Rapid Damage Assessment and 'Passive stand-by'.

"I am very new to the SES and have only about three months of service, as such my duties are mostly menial tasks like moving the already cut up branches to the shoulder of the road or path so the fire services and other emergency services can get through," said Desmond who migrated to Australia six months ago for a slower pace of life.

The State Emergency Service (SES) is a volunteer-based emergency assistance and rescue service that provide emergency assistance.

They respond to extreme weather events such as heatwaves, storms and flooding, road crashes, and during major bushfires among others.

Desmond, who still owns an event management business in Malaysia, did not witness the fires first hand, but was deployed a day or two after the fires were brought under control.

He said the sense of camaraderie in the towns around the fire grounds was overwhelming, with many restaurants, cafes, eateries offering affected neighbourhoods and Emergency Services personnel free coffee and hot meals, among other things.

"My intention in joining the SES was to learn but I got sucked into the camaraderie and team spirit real quick, the management and colleagues at my unit are fantastic.

"We have members aged from 20 to 70, the devotion and commitment to help their community is fantastic. I'd be a lifelong member for sure," he said.

Desmond said he joined the SES because of the training modules they offer and the nationally recognised certification in First Aid, Swift Water Rescue, Disaster and Emergency Management and many more.

"All of these have been of interest to me but I never found the time to learn when in Malaysia. While I offer my time to the community, I get an education and training in return," he said.

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