The wildfires in Australia: what’s going on and what’s being done

(Catarina Sousa/Pexels photo)

Australia is currently in the midst of a crisis, the country is experiencing its worst bushfires in decades, devastating people’s land and property and killing millions of animals who are unable to escape the flames. 

The story so far

Since July 1st, 2019, bushfires have been raging across Australia with record-breaking hot temperatures, months of drought and high winds exasperating the problem helping the fires to burn. In January 2020, the fires are still ongoing having torn their way through over 10 million hectares of land. With more than 200 fires currently burning, the death toll has now reached 28 with 6 people still missing in fire-affected regions across New South Wales and Victoria. More than 2000 homes have been destroyed with some farmers losing entire herds of their livestock. 

The government response

The Australian government, in particular, their prime minister Scott Morrison, has been highly criticized for their failure to anticipate and fight the disaster with Mr. Morrison fueling criticisms against him by also failing to see a link between the unprecedented scale of the bush fires and climate change. As the crisis escalated over the Christmas period Mr. Morrison took his family on holiday to Hawaii and faced a nationwide backlash for abandoning his country and his people in one of their greatest times of need. In response to such criticisms, the prime minister has since expressed his deepest regrets over how he and his cabinet have so far handled the crisis and has promised to find A$2 billion to help the country to recover. 

Despite his best efforts, Mr. Morrison has already lost favor with the Australian public, with support for him plummeting to its lowest levels. A Newspoll survey shows his approval ratings to have dropped by 8% since the last poll conducted on December the 8th 2019, now standing at 37%, a score that is now lower than his rival Labour leader Anthony Albanese. The Australian public has also taken to social media and a number of petitions are now being shared calling for Mr. Morrison to be removed from office. 

What is being done

With the lack of support from the government, the Australian public has largely taken matters into their own hands with a number of high profile celebrities starting fundraisers to find the money to fight the fires destroying their home country. One such sensation is the comedian Celeste Barber whose Facebook Fundraiser to raise money for Australian Wildlife Relief has now raised over $51 million Australian dollars – leaving many people to wonder if perhaps Mr. Morrison should be taking communication tips from Celeste rather than his advisors. 

Although the largest fundraiser Celeste is not alone in generating valuable income for cash strapped charities with Facebook reporting a total of more than 19,000 Public Fundraisers having been created, drawing support from all over the globe with donations coming in from 75 countries and supporting more than 250 organizations. 

On the ground 

On the ground, fighting the fires is proving to be a monumental task with more than 3700 firefighters working day and night to battle the blazes across the country. Helping the fire service are the Australian Army, Navy, and Air Force, emergency personnel and firefighting volunteers from the US, Canada, and New Zealand. This incredibly long campaign which has now been underway for more than 5 months is taking a toll both physically and mentally on all those involved. 

Fire crews are tackling the blazes with a combination of on the ground and airborne equipment dousing the flames in water from helicopters, planes, and hoses. Sadly, the scale of the fires makes it very difficult for crews to get a handle on the flames and many believe the fires won’t stop until Australia receives a significant portion of rain. 

Alongside the firefighter’s, charities and volunteers are rescuing thousands of animals, forced to leave their homes, many suffering from severe burns, dehydration and life-altering injuries. Sadly, not all are able to escape and it is estimated that the wildfires have already killed more than half a billion animals. For those that survive or have been taken into care, their future is still unknown with large swathes of their habitats destroyed taking many years to recover. 

The future for Australia

At present the future for Australia sits largely unknown, the fires still rage, donations still pour in and people are still doing all they can to save their homes, their wildlife, and their country. One thing, however, is for sure, with the current rate of climate change the scale and frequency of wildfires are not going to stop and this is a huge wakeup call for the world to take action.

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