Australian Bushfires on a destruction spree, National Emergency declared

The leader of Australia’s eastern New South Wales state has declared a week-long state of National emergency, starting from 21:00 GMT on 30 January 2020. Further, troops are being prepared to evacuate some of the 4,000 people trapped by fires in neighbouring Victoria state. Amidst criticism for pulling a disappearing act during the crisis, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeated his pleas to people, for not panicking and trusting emergency workers.

Crux of the Matter

As an area about the size of South Korea, which is 25.5 million acres approximately, has burned, this is a fightback response to the escalating bushfire threat. It would also allow the Rural Fire Service to carry out forced evacuations and road closures.

Since September, the Australian authorities have reported that the wildfires have killed 18 people and destroyed more than 1,200 homes across NSW and Victoria. Fresh numbers erupted this week with more than 17 people declared missing.

Meteorologists say a climate system in the Indian Ocean, known as the dipole, is the main driver behind the extreme heat in Australia. Additionally, many parts of the country have been in drought conditions for years, which may have made it easier for the fires to spread and grow.

According to Swiss-based group AirVisual, in the capital of Canberra, the air quality was rated worse than in any major global city last week. High temperatures and strong winds have been forecast for the week ahead that could lead to “widespread extreme fire danger”.

A naval vessel has arrived off the coastal town of Mallacoota, near the NSW border. Defence Minister Linda Reynolds tweeted that the HMAS Choules was in position. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has said that the ship would take up to 800 people and could do “multiple trips”.

Workers are busy clearing roads, restoring power, and conducting “backburning” operations to thin out bushland near fire fronts as NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance has urged people to drive slowly amid thick smoke. Deliveries have been suspended in the city until further notice.

In the meantime, two regions of Western Australia (WA) are also facing catastrophic fire danger and parts of South Australia were expected to see extreme conditions in times ahead. Summer extends from December to February in Australia, with fire season typically peaking in late January or early February, so the disaster is expected to continue.

Curiopedia

Bushfires in Australia are a widespread and regular occurrence that have contributed significantly to moulding the nature of the continent over millions of years. Eastern Australia is one of the most fire-prone regions of the world, and its predominant eucalyptus forests have evolved to thrive on the phenomenon of bushfire. However the blazes can cause significant property damage and loss of both human and animal life. Bushfires have killed approximately 800 people in Australia since 1851, and billions of animals. The most destructive fires are usually preceded by extreme high temperatures, low relative humidity and strong winds, which combine to create ideal conditions for the rapid spread of fire. Severe fire storms are often named according to the day on which they peaked, including the five most deadly blazes: Black Saturday 2009 in Victoria (173 people killed, 2000 homes lost); Ash Wednesday 1983 in Victoria and South Australia (75 dead, nearly 1900 homes); Black Friday 1939 in Victoria (71 dead, 650 houses destroyed), Black Tuesday 1967 in Tasmania (62 people and almost 1300 homes); and the Gippsland fires and Black Sunday of 1926 in Victoria (60 people killed over a two month period). Other major conflagrations include the 1851 Black Thursday bushfires, the 2006 December bushfires, the 1974-75 fires that burned up 15% of Australia, and the ongoing 2019–20 bushfires. In January 2020, it was estimated that over 1.25 billion animals have died in the 2019-2020 Australian bushfire season. More Info

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