Devastation in Australia

Deadly bushfires have claimed lives, land


courtesy of The New York Times

A kangaroo hopping past a burning home on New Year's Eve. Fires have been burning in Australia since November.

Mary Gillon, Print Editor-in-Chief

Since November of 2019, bushfires have been ablaze in Australia. In the Southern hemisphere, summer is only just beginning, with extreme drought, dry weather and heat contributing to the spread of the deadly fires.

As of Jan. 6, there were 136 fires burning across New South Wales (NSW) alone. Although there are separate fires occurring in the eight Australian regions, NSW has been the most heavily affected.

Chris Dickman, an ecology professor at the University of Sydney estimated on Jan. 8 that 800 million animals have been killed thus far in the fires– just in the state of New South Wales. That means that the likely number of fire-related animal deaths nationwide is over 1 billion. Some of these deaths are caused indirectly by the fires through starvation, dehydration and habitat loss.

According to NPR News, Australian officials say that the bushfires will continue to burn for months to come. Over 25 million acres have burned as of Jan. 10, according to University of California Davis researchers.

On Friday, Jan. 10, two fires merged together, creating a “megafire.” The fire collectively engulfs 1.5 million acres, which is about the size of Delaware.

Evacuations have been taking place across the country. Australia’s armed services have been assisting civilians in moving to safer areas while thousands of firefighters have been battling the flames and attempting to save the lives of humans and animals, with 3,000 additional personnel, called on by the Australian Defense Force, on the way to assist firefighters combat the flames, including firefighters from California.

Some were not lucky enough to be evacuated, though. Twenty-eight human casualties have been reported, with numerous people missing. Three of those killed were volunteer firefighters.

Since the start of November, 183 people have had legal action taken against them for fire-related offenses, 47 of which are accused of throwing a lit cigarette or match on the ground.

As of Jan. 8, 24 people have been charged for intentionally setting bushfires.

Climate change is also playing a part of Australia’s destruction.

“What we’re seeing are the effects of climate change,” said Dickman.

Several major cities in Australia have had their streets flooded with thousands of protestors.

“The bushfires are devastating communities and our government is not doing enough to stop it,” Ambrose Hayes, 14, told CNN at a Sydney protest.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison faces heavy criticism from his constituents on his environmental policies.

Regardless of stance on the cause, or causes, people from all over the world have shown support to Australia. Countless donations have been made.

Australian comedian Celeste Barber launched a fundraiser that raised over $30 million and had over 1 million contributors. Celebrities like Pink, Elton John, Nicole Kidman and Chris Hemsworth have also made significant donations.

If you would like to, and have the necessary means to, donate to Australian organizations, feel free to do so through the links listed below: