All weekend I have seen and heard news reports on the bushfires racing across Victoria. Twitter has been abuzz. In their wake, they have left destruction and broken hearts – entire towns have been lost and a death toll around 80 (at this point in time).

In some cases, the fires have moved at over 100 km/h, engulfing houses before the occupants even smelled the smoke. In these cases, those who escaped, escaped only with their lives and the clothes on their back. (UPDATE: read this first person account by New.com.au journalist, Gary Hughes.)

A fund raising appeal has been established by the Red Cross here; and those wanting to check on the safety of loved ones can do so by calling 1800 727 077. However, the focus at present in on the wellbeing of those affected by the fires – and there are still many fires burning out of control across Victoria.

Elias Bizannes shares this live map of the Victorian fires. It has been pulled together in a mashup by Google engineer, Pamela Fox – bringing data from the Victorian CFA and combining with with Google’s mapping/geo location data. It shows the very real scale of the fires. Unfortunately, as Elias points out, not all states make their data available in such a portable format.

The largely volunteer fire fighters have performed astonishingly in dangerous and unpredictable conditions. And like many Australians, my heart is heavy with sadness at the devastation and misery that has befallen many families.