As you read this, devastating fires are continuing to spread across the east coast of Australia.
A total of 18 people have died nationwide, and in the state of New South Wales alone, more than 900 houses have been destroyed. State and federal authorities are struggling to contain the massive blazes, even with firefighting assistance from other countries.
Blazes have torn through bushland, wooded areas, and national parks like the Blue Mountains. Some of Australia's largest cities have also been affected, including Melbourne and Sydney -- where fires have damaged homes in the outer suburbs and thick plumes of smoke have blanketed the urban centre. Earlier in December, the smoke was so bad in Sydney that air quality measured 11 times the "hazardous" level.
Entire towns have been engulfed in flames, and residents across several states have lost their homes. In NSW alone, the country's most populated state, where close to 1,300 homes have been destroyed and over 440 damaged. In total, more than 5.9 million hectares (14.7 million acres) have been burned across Australia's six states – an area larger than the countries of Belgium and Haiti combined. To put that into perspective, the 2019 Amazon rainforest fires burned more than 7 million hectares (about 17.5 million acres), according to Brazilian officials.
There has also been extensive damage to wildlife and the environment. Ecologists from the University of Sydney now estimate 480 million mammals, birds and reptiles have been lost since September – and that figure is only expected to soar. Harrowing scenes of kangaroos fleeing walls of fire, charred bodies of koalas and cockatoos falling dead out of trees to have horrified the world as it tries to take in the scale of the unfolding disaster. Koalas have been among the hardest hit of Australia’s native animals because they are slow-moving and only eat leaves from the eucalyptus tree, which are filled with oil, making them highly flammable.
The catastrophic rating is based on a matrix of factors including temperature, humidity, wind and dryness of the landscape. And although Australia's government would like you to believe just that, Australia's fire season risks are growing longer and more intense due to climate change, according to scientists.
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Officials have confirmed that 2018 and 2017 were Australia's third and fourth-hottest years on record respectively, and last year the nation experienced its warmest summer on record. The Bureau of Meteorology's State of the Climate 2018 report said climate change had led to an increase in extreme heat events and increased the severity of other natural disasters, such as drought.
With all this going on in the background, it can often feel like we’re powerless to do anything to help this alarming situation, but while there’s no way to directly stop the fires that are already raging in Australia, there are things we can do to protect and prevent further fires from happening. Below we’ve collated a list of the ways you can help the east coast of Australia right now, and protect it for the future.
The more you learn about the crisis that’s happening, the more you can help.
Bushfires are common in Australia but the country has experienced a dramatic start to what scientists predict will be a tough fire season - with climate change and weather cycles contributing to the dangerous combination of strong winds, high temperatures and dry conditions.
The current disaster has not wreaked the human devastation of Australia's worst recent bushfires, the Black Saturday fires that killed 173 people in Victoria state in 2009, with some experts attributing that to better early warning systems.
THE SALVATION ARMY
The Salvation Army launched The Bushfire Disaster Appeal to allow Australians to support the communities affected.
The appeal will position the Salvos to move beyond the current support of evacuees and emergency personnel and into the sustained effort required through the recovery and rebuild phases to come.
The Salvation Army’s Emergency Services teams are active at six evacuation centres in NSW, and they hope to raise $3 million, with a $500,000 contribution from leading corporate donor Woolworths already.
Several GoFundMe pages have been set up to help those living in areas on the NSW mid-coast that have been destroyed by fires:
- Mid Coast Bushfire Relief
- Willawarren and Bobin Residents
- Wytaliba community
- Rainbow Flat and Hillville
NSW Rural Fire Service
An NSW Rural Fire Service and Brigades page has been created to “help our heroes”. You can also donate to the organisation via credit card or via direct deposit:
Account Name: NSW Rural Fire ServiceBank: Westpac BSB: 032-001 Account No: 171051
To request a receipt email your name, date of deposit, amount and address to [email protected]
Cheques and money orders can be posted to: NSW Rural Fire ServiceLocked Bag 17, Granville NSW 2142.
Australian Red Cross
You can also donate to the Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery by calling 1800 811 700 or making a donation online.
Red Cross will use the donations to help affected communities by providing aid as well as stocks of critical disaster response equipment, including water filtration, shelter, hygiene and cooking kits for use in emergencies.
The Trustee for NSW Rural Fire Service & Brigades Donation Fund
Comedian and social media queen, Celeste Barber is using her platform to not only raise awareness of the Australian fires but to also raise money for The Trustee for NSW Rural Fire Service & Brigades Donations Fund using Facebook so that people all around the world can do their bit to help. Donate here.
help the animals
While trees burn, various wildlife are impacted, raising concerns for extinction. For instance, the future of koalas has long since been in question, but now with the bushfires tearing through Australia’s “Koala Triangle” (a region where in the majority of the nation’s koalas on the Australian east coast live), the threat of extinction is even more immense. Before the fires, the area’s koala population was expected to become extinct in as little as 30 years. Now, this timeline has been potentially accelerated.
- To help koalas in the mid-coast area, visit the Koalas in Care Facebook page to donate. You can donate to Koalas in Care here.
- Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has also organised a fundraising appeal to help the wildlife affected in that area. You can donate to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital here.
Donations to the World Wildlife Fund will go towards supporting the injured animals impacted by the fires, particularly the koalas. You can donate to the WWF here.
Wildlife rescue nonprofit Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) is rescuing and caring for thousands of injured, orphaned, and homeless native animals. You can donate to WIRES here.
- Donations to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital will go towards installing automatic drinking stations for wildlife searching for water in Australia’s burnt areas. Donations will also support the establishment of a wild koala breeding program, designed with the hopes of reversing the species’s threat of extinction. Donate to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital’s GoFundMe page here.
- The RSPCA of New South Wales is working to evacuate, rescue and treat pets, livestock and wildlife in impacted areas. Make a donation to the RSPCA of New South Wales here.
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