Thousands of evacuations, firefighters working around the clock, people fleeing to beaches and thousands of buildings that have been destroyed. Since August, the east of Australia has been plagued by heavy wildfires. What actually happened all those months?
Forest fires Australia
- So far, 24 people and hundreds of million animals have died
- Thousands of people have to flee
- Tens of thousands of Australians are without power
- Fires rage in three states
Australia regularly suffers from natural fires, but the sea of flames in recent months is exceptional. The already warm land 'down under' has had a dry winter, which means that the landscape is extra sensitive to fire in the Australian summer. Firefighters in the states of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria have been fighting since October against fires that are spreading rapidly.
The wildfires soon become fatal. In October an older couple from New South Wales were killed and half a koala population died in a coastal reserve due to natural disasters. Since October, the death toll has risen sharply and at the beginning of January there are 24 people. In addition, hundreds of millions of animals may have died in the fire.
See also: NUcheckt: Hundreds of millions of animals killed by forest fires in Australia
More problems expected due to the start of summer
In November, the fire brigade in New South Wales only anticipates more problems. Summer is coming and temperatures are rising. Emergency services have limited resources and it is possible that not everyone who is at risk can be helped on time. Tens of thousands of residents of the state have to take refuge.
The largest city in the country, Sydney, sees the blaze in some places just a few meters away from homes. Where the city is not affected by the flames, the sky above Sydney starts to turn orange due to the smoke. This smoke also reaches neighboring New Zealand in the course of the months.
Both New South Wales and neighboring Queensland declare a state of emergency. A fire ban is called in several places, which means that open fire is absolutely not allowed.
31Red glow hinders visibility of Australian pilots
Australian authorities are being discredited
Australian authorities are discredited by the end of December. First, residents are furious with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who goes on vacation to Hawaii in the midst of the fires. He goes home two days earlier than planned and apologizes.
People are also worried about New Year's Eve in Sydney. This is celebrated annually with a large fireworks show, but there is a ban on fires in the state. Local authorities decide that canceling this event does not bring benefits to victims, but do release hundreds of thousands of Australian dollars to help, as well as tools and services.
Already in November the skies in Australia turned red because of the forest fires © Reuters
The fires are clearly visible on satellite images © Reuters
Kangaroos gather in the gardens of a residential area because of the ongoing forest fires in the nature reserve where they normally live © Reuters
People from the province of Victoria were evacuated with a naval ship from the port city of Hastings
Pets were also taken to a safer place © Reuters
The fires also cause smog above the famous Opera House in Sydney © Reuters
Thousands of people flee to beaches
Around the turn of the year the danger also starts to threaten the southern state of Victoria. An area half as large as Belgium is being evacuated. To flee the inland sea of fire, many people go to the coast.
More than four thousand people have to spend New Year's Eve on the beach, while the sky turns dark red due to the thick smoke. The Australian army is pulling ships and helicopters out to take people away after spending several nights on the beaches.
Sunday January 5 the weather conditions get a little better and the fire brigade gets a moment to catch their breath. However, heat is expected again for the following week. In addition, the short coolness was not enough to extinguish the hundreds of fires. Thousands of homes have now been destroyed and more than 5 million hectares of nature have been lost.
66Australians and tourists are hiding on beach for forest fires
See also: Dutch eyewitness forest fires Australia: 'Disaster of world size'