World ‘If you’re told to leave, you must leave’: mass evacuations as Australia’s bushfires intensify
A thick smoke cloud hung over most of the city late in the afternoon, while residents in Mardella, Hopeland, Wellard, Casuarina and Oldbury were told to leave their home if they have a safe escape route, and otherwise to stay indoors and shelter in a room with two exits and a water supply.
The fire burnt 1,000 hectares in its first four hours, and authorities warned it is out of control and highly unpredictable.
Also in Western Australia, hopes to get stranded travellers across the only sealed road that connects the state to South Australia were dashed Thursday when the fires blocking the Eyre Highway got worse.
People have been stranded on the Nullabor, on both sides of the state border, trying to get home for several days, relying in part on local truck stops for vital supplies.
Also on Thursday, the Australian Academy of Science released a video summarising the impacts of the crisis on Australia’s native wildlife. It is now believed one billion animals have been killed, and many species lost forever.
New South Wales fire fighters said more than 2,600 homes have been incinerated or badly damaged this fire season, including 1,870 destroyed. On the same day, the state government announced a $1billion (£530,000,000) fund for reconstruction efforts.
The commitment comes on top of more than $200 million already committed by the State, and a $2billion national fund provided by the Federal Government.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state funds would be used for infrastructure, while the Federal relief money would go directly to people.
Mining billionaire Andrew Forrest also pledged $70million (£36,820,000) for fire relief and reconstruction. Mr Forrest did, however, receive some criticism for blaming the majority of the fires on arson, when police and fire authorities in all affected states have made clear that is not the case.
It emerged this week that the Bureau of Meteorology found 2019 was the hottest and driest year ever recorded in Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s problematic handling of the crisis continued on Thursday too, when he said “thankfully we have had no loss of life” on Kangaroo Island while visiting an area where a father and son had been killed by the blaze.
When he was quickly corrected, he said: “Yes two, that’s quite right. I was thinking about firefighters firstly.”
Severe weather conditions in Australia this weekend are threatening to undo some of the progress firefighters have made in extinguishing a series of bushfires that have burned through large areas of the country since September.
Residents in the southeast state of Victoria have been asked to evacuate their homes this week as high temperatures hit the region on Friday, The Guardian reports.
“People have a right to stay and defend their property,” said Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, the outlet reported.
“But in putting that plan in place they also have to… make a judgment about: is this fire so severe; if it’s creating its own weather; if you have convection columns that are almost a molten tornado… that might be something that is well beyond the planning that you have done,” he added.
High temperatures and dry conditions over the last few months have driven the blazes, which have so far burned through more than 24,000 square miles of forest and parks, according to the BBC. At least 25 people have been killed so far while hundreds of homes and buildings have been destroyed.
The map above, created by PEOPLE, shows all of the areas of the country currently affected by the blazes.
According to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, there are 2,500 firefighters battling 134 fires in the state. Of those blazes, 53 are uncontained.
Temperatures in some parts of the state were expected to reach 104 degrees on Friday.
“I can’t stress this point enough,” Andrews added of asking residents to evacuate Victoria, which shares a border with New South Wales. “The fewer people we have there, the better for everyone.”
More than 200 firefighters are attempting to put out a blaze in the southern part of the country that has destroyed more than a third of Kangaroo Island, according to the Guardian.