History of Bushfires: Is Australia’s Inferno the Epicenter of Earth’s Climactic Vengeance?

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History of Bushfires: Is Australia’s Inferno the Epicenter of Earth’s Climactic Vengeance?

Map of Australia Bushfire
Map of Australia depicting fire watch hotspots

Australia is burning. Known for its picturesque landscape and biodiversity, the country is one of the top destinations for tourism and human migration. However, Australia is going through a catastrophic time. The bushfire is destroying the flora and fauna of the place. Their world-heritage rain forests are burning , the famous and glorious great barrier reef are literally dying, its giant kelp forests have almost gone now, numerous towns have run out of drinking water or are about to, and now the vast continent is burning on a scale which is not imaginable.

Here is a look at the current scenario of Australia bushfire:

1. The fires have already burned about 14.5 million acres – an area almost as large as West Virginia

2. Canberra’s (capital city of Australia) air on New Year’s Day was the most polluted in the world. Mainly the reason being – plume of fire smoke as wide as Europe.

3. Scientists estimate that close to half a billion native animals have been killed and fear that some species of animals and plants may have been wiped out completely.

4. The real situation is surviving animals are abandoning their young in what is described as mass “starvation events.”

5. Though a state of emergency has been declared in New South Wales and a state of disaster in Victoria, mass evacuations are taking place, a humanitarian catastrophe is feared, and towns up and down the east coast are surrounded by fires, all transport and most communication links cut, their fate unknown yet things are not completely clear.

Summing up, the area burned is almost the size of England, which is 13 million hectares.

The world has seen many bushfires. Perhaps this is mother Nature’s way of saying how distressed she is. In a similar way, the Amazon fires in 2019 saw about 900,000 hectares burned. The California fires in 2018 claimed about 800,000 hectares. But the bushfires in Australia is destroying lives at a scale never seen before.

With cyclones and bushfires marked as regular natural calamities prevalent in Australia, below is a comparison of Australia’s several tryst with bushfires.

Death toll: 25 people dead
Damage: About 10 million hectares burned, including 5 million hectares in NSW.
These fires have been raging since October 2019.
Death toll: 173 people died

Damage: 450,000 hectares burned

About 400 fires raged across Victoria, affecting 78 communities. This is the worst fire in terms of the lives lost.
Death toll: 4 people

Damage: About 160,000 hectares

Over 488 houses destroyed About 70 per cent of the ACT’s pasture, forests and nature parks including Namadgi National Park, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and all government pine forest west of the Murrumbidgee River Stromlo pine plantation was burned. There were approximately 488 houses destroyed and many more were damaged
Death toll: None

Damage: About 753,314 hectares

Over 100 fires burnt in 23 days.

Affected areas include: Cessnock, Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury and Penrith areas.

Death toll: 47 people in Victoria, 28 people in South Australia

Damage: 150,000 hectares in Victoria and 160,000 hectares in South Australia

This incident destroyed thousands of properties in Australia and over 32,400 livestock in Victoria.
Death toll: 3 people in NSW

Damage: About 117 million hectares

During the summer between 1974 and 1975, Australia experienced its worst bushfire season in 30 years. The overall damage was estimated at over $5 Mn.
Death toll: 62 people killed, 900 injured

Damage: 264,270 hectares burned; 1,293 homes destroyed

About 110 separate fires ravaged southern Tasmania
Death toll: Two firefighters

Damage: 40,000 hectares burned

These fires devastated the Mount Lofty Ranges, east of Adelaide.
Death toll: 71 people

Damage: About 2 million hectares

Victoria was affected the worst way.
Death toll: 71 people

Damage: About 2 million hectares

Victoria was affected the worst way.
Death toll: 60 people

Damage: Estimated 400,000 hectares burned

Throughout February and March, bushfires raged across large areas of Gippsland in Victoria. Widespread destruction of farms, houses and sawmills happened. Over 31 people died at Warburton near Melbourne.
Death toll: 12 people

Damage: 260,000 hectares burned, and 2000 buildings destroyed.

The southern Gippsland area of Victoria was burned including Cranbourne, Traralgon, Neerim South and Poowong areas.
Death toll: 12 people.

Damage: 5 million hectares burned, about a quarter of the state of Victoria.

The fires raged out of control from Barwon Heads, all the way to Mount Gambier in South Australia. Smoke haze travelled as far as Tasmania.

In the current bushfires, at least 23 people have died and over 2,000 homes have been lost.

According to a WWF estimate, it’s been estimated that half a billion animals have been killed just in New South Wales. This includes thousands of koalas and other iconic species such as kangaroos, wallabies, kookaburras, cockatoos and honeyeaters burnt alive, and many thousands more injured and homeless.

Australia Bushfire
Image Courtesy: BBC

Despite the world praying and relentless efforts made by the firefighters, here are the grey shades of the bushfire developments:

1. The response of Australia’s top leaders including the opposition to this unprecedented national crisis has been not to defend their country with correct safeguards. Rather, they are defending the coal industry, a big donor to both major parties.

2. While the fires were raging in mid-December, the leader of the opposition Labor Party went on a tour to the coal mining communities who expressed their unequivocal support for coal exports.

3. Authorities in Australia will begin five-day campaign to kill thousands of camels in the country as they drink too much water amid the wildfires. The government will send helicopters to kill up to 10,000 camels in a five-day campaign starting Wednesday 8th Jan-2020 as per the reports of The Australian. The planned killing of the camels comes at a time the country is ravaged by wildfires since November. The disaster has killed more than a dozen people and caused the displacement or deaths of 480 million animals, according to University of Sydney researchers.

As Australia continues to toil in the heat of the bushfires, all we can do is pray and plan for better implementation to safeguard Nature and turn the course of Climate Change.

Wise decisions prevail and let the actions be taken faster.

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