Australian states battle bush fires every year — but little has compared to the widespread devastation of this fire season.
Millions of acres have been torched and entire homes have been swallowed by flames. More than 20 people have lost their lives. About half a billion animals have been killed in New South Wales by one estimate. And the country’s summer is only just beginning.
Along with a series of pictures published on his Facebook, Australian politician Leon Bignell called the reality of the fires “ugly.”
“We met some of the many families and individuals who are homeless following the fire and we all need to work together to get them back on their feet as soon as possible. The mental scars though may never heal,” he said.
Here’s a look at just how bad the blazes have scarred the country so far:
By the numbers:
About 2,700 firefighters were battling the blazes as of Sunday. Three have been killed.
The Australia Defence Force said Sunday it had called 3,000 army reserve forces and others with specialist capabilities to help fight the flames.
There were about 136 fires burning across NSW Monday.
Of those, 69 are not contained, the NSW Rural Fire Service said Monday.
Officials say 24 people have died nationwide this fire season.
The majority of casualties — 18 — are from NSW, which has been hit hardest by blazes. Three people have died in Victoria and another three in South Australia.
Two people are also missing in NSW as of Monday.
About 480 million animals have died across NSW, professor Chris Dickman with the University of Sydney, estimates. “The true mortality is likely to be substantially higher than those estimated,” the university said in a statement.
Almost a third of koalas in NSW may have been killed in the fires, and a third of their habitat has been destroyed, said Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley.
In December, the smoke in Sydney was so bad that air quality measured 11 times the “hazardous” level.
In total, more than 14.7 million acres have been burned across the country’s six states. That’s larger than the countries of Belgium and Haiti combined.
Just in NSW, there have been more than 1,300 houses destroyed and 8.9 million acres scorched.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday unveiled a $1.39 billion fund to help rebuild communities hit by the fires.
About $347 million of that will be allocated within this year, Treasurer of Australia Josh Frydenberg added.
The prime minister has already said up to $4,200 will go to each of the volunteer firefighters battling blazes for more than 10 days.