Ecologists at the University of Sydney, Australia, estimate that some 480 million animals – including mammals, birds and reptiles – have died from the wildfires that have plagued the country since September. Thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes and so far 17 human deaths have been confirmed. About 4 million hectares were destroyed by the flames.
Koalas were one of the species most affected by the flames. Environment Minister Sussan Ley said in an interview with ABC radio that 8,000 were killed, covering 30% of the population of these animals in New South Wales, the Australian state that suffers most from the fires.
Videos and photos of animals running for their lives or asking humans for water have taken over Australia's social networks. In a video published by the local press, kangaroos are spotted fleeing the rapidly spreading flames. In another, firefighters water a thirsty koala in an area near the fire.
In November 2019, a video of the rescue of a koala went viral on social networks. The images showed a woman entering the burning forest after seeing the animal wandering and crying over her injuries. Named after Ellenborough Lewis, the koala was sacrificed shortly thereafter because of the burns suffered.
The Australian government has commenced the displacement of thousands of people in various cities along Australia's southeastern coast and declared a state of emergency in the state of New South Wales.
"The priority today is to fight fires and keep people safe," Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Sydney. "There are parts of both Victoria and New South Wales that have been completely devastated, with loss of energy and communications."
Eight people have been killed by forest fires in both states since Monday 31, and 18 more are still missing. Currently, the government only confirms 17 deaths in total.
Morrison is criticized within his country. Climate change denier, said he will not back down on his environmental policy. On a visit to the town of Cobargo, where three people died and dozens lost their homes, the prime minister was called an "idiot" and told that he was not welcome. Morrison quickly left the scene.
Blood red sky
Australia is experiencing one of its worst climate crises with forest fires and a heat wave that easily reaches 40 ° C during the day. The smoke released by the flames transformed the day into night in Sydney, one of the main cities in the country.
Soot turned the blue sky of the city of Mallacoota red, like an apocalyptic scenario, as thousands of people left their homes.
But the smoke was not restricted to Australia. In New Zealand, soot from the fires posed over glaciers in the southern part of the country. Climbers reported on Wednesday 1 the sudden change in snow color: from white to brown.
There is no respite in sight for firefighters fighting the flames. The forecast is that temperatures in the country exceed 40 ° C over the weekend, which may cause the flare to increase. To date, 916 homes have been destroyed, 363 damaged and 8,159 have been saved, according to the Rural Fire Service.