AUSTRALIAN BUSHFIRE SURVIVORS WAIT FOR RELIEF AS LAST FIRES EXTINGUISH
On March 2, Australian officials announced that there were no longer any active bushfires in the state of New South Wales for the first time in 240 days. Torrential rains have provided relief to widespread wildfires that have ravaged over 42,000 square miles of Australia and claimed 34 human lives and 1.5 billion animals since July 2019 (NPR, Reuters).
Although the fires have been contained for several weeks, hundreds of residents in bushfire-affected areas continue to wait for secure housing and basic needs. Temporary housing and water supplies have become increasingly difficult to find in towns such as Cobargo, New South Wales (The Guardian). Escalating cases of coronavirus disease have made relief even more uncertain. The National Bushfire Recovery Agency has been unable to confirm whether the $76 million earmarked for bushfire recovery relief will also be used for the coronavirus response. “With significant tourism affect in bushfire areas it is likely there may be some opportunity to work across both areas of impact,” an agency spokesman told The Guardian Australia (The Guardian).
Recent studies have shown that climate change increases the risks of further wildfire devastation in coming years (New York Times). A study published on March 4 confirmed that this season’s unprecedented fires were at least 30% more likely due to climate change (Reuters). Another study finds Australian summers are now effectively twice as long as its winters (Reuters).