A devastating series of bushfires continue to wreak havoc across vast swathes of Southern Australia. In New South Wales, over half a billion animals have been killed and more than 20 people are confirmed dead, including three firefighters deployed to help tackle the inferno.
Millions of acres have been destroyed by the relentless flames, with many homes being reduced to smoldering ashes. On Monday, despite some much-needed rainfall, there were still 136 fires burning across New South Wales alone. According to the NSW Rural Fire Service, 69 of those remain uncontained.
The smoke and smog generated by the fire is causing concern among public health officials, too. According to CNN, the capital city of Canberra is currently suffering from an arid and toxic atmosphere, logging a rating of 340 on the air quality index. For comparison, Beijing, which is known for its dreadful air quality, is rated at 170.
According to the BBC, in December, cricket players breathing in the air at a Sydney cricket ground said it felt as if they were “smoking 80 cigarettes a day.”
“It's not healthy," said bowler Steve O'Keefe. "It's toxic.”
The smoke in Canberra is so severe that the very agency tasked with dealing with these sorts of crisis situations has been forced to close.
The Department of Home Affairs and Australian Border Force (ABF) on Sunday ordered staff members to stay home from work for 48 hours due to the health risks associated with the smoke.
"The department continues to monitor air quality across all its sites in Canberra in the event business continuity arrangements need to be extended," the department's acting deputy secretary, Pablo Carpay, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Carpay added that the department was looking into “procuring air purifiers for key sites,” so that critical staff could keep working.
Australia has been forced to accept help from other nations as they deal with the worst bushfire in recent history and come to terms with the fact that summer is only just beginning.
“Thank you to the US, Canada, NZ and Singapore, who are providing support to help us fight these terrible #bushfires, including firefighters, helicopters and troops,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweeted Monday. “We deeply appreciate the many other international friends who have offered support.”
On Sunday, given that more hot weather is inevitable, Morrison warned that “the crisis is not over.”
“There are months to go,” he added.
Several celebrities have pledged vast sums of money in a bid to help aid relief efforts. On Monday, Australian pop star Kylie Minogue announced that she would be gifting $500,000 towards the “immediate firefighting efforts.”
Actress Nicole Kidman has also pledged half a million dollars.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/David Gray/Stringer
Will Maule is a British journalist who has spent the past several years working as a digital news editor. Since earning a degree in international relations and politics, Will has developed a particular interest in covering ethical issues, human rights and global religious persecution. Will's work has been featured in various outlets including The Spectator, Faithwire, CBN News, Spiked, The Federalist and Christian Headlines. Follow him on Twitter at @WillAMaule.