The deadly fires show no signs of slowing, with temperatures expected to reach well over 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and “extreme” fire danger predicted for South Australia.
The blaze is expected to consume the entirety of a national park in that province’s Kangaroo Island, and an evacuation order has been issued for over 100,000 people. Meanwhile, the government of New South Wales declared a state of emergency to take effect on Friday.
Forecasters are predicting even worse on Saturday.
“Conditions are set to mirror or even deteriorate beyond what we saw on New Year’s Eve,” the Bureau of Meteorology’s Jonathan How said in a briefing, warning that strong and dry winds would likely bring fires back to life in already-devastated regions.
New Year’s Eve saw residents of coastal communities forced to take to the water to avoid being engulfed in flames.
Close to half a billion animals are believed to have been lost in the blaze, according to ecologists from the University of Sydney.
The koala population has been especially devastated due to their slow speeds preventing them from escaping the inferno – some 30 percent of one koala colony in the northeast is believed to have been destroyed.
Entire species may have been decimated, News Corp Australia reported earlier this week, warning the damage will only increase as the fires, having already burned an area larger than Denmark, continue to grow. With over 12 million hectares destroyed, the fires are so large they are capable of generating their own weather systems, including lightning that can strike dry brush and seed new fires.
Tens of thousands of people are being evacuated from the provinces of Victoria and New South Wales – “the largest evacuation of people out of the region ever,” according to NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance. A “Tourist Leave Zone” across NSW has been established in the hopes of convincing visitors to get out before evacuation likely becomes impossible on Saturday, while thousands have been evacuated on ships with the help of the Australian Navy from the coastal town of Mallacoota.
Over 1,300 homes have been destroyed, and at least 17 deaths have been reported. While not the deadliest fire season in Australian history – yet – there are still months to go before it’s over. The sheer size of the destruction has far surpassed other recent catastrophic fires, such as the California wildfires and the Amazon fires.
If you like this story, share it with a friend!