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At least 17 people have been left dead since wildfires started to rage through Australia in September. Thousands have had to evacuate to the coast for fear of the bushfires, and the military has been sent in to help as flames ravage the countryside in the worst bushfire season in the country’s history. Victoria Emergency Commissioner Andrew Crisp told reporters: ‘We have three months of hot weather to come. We do have a dynamic and dangerous fire situation across the state.’ With a week-long state of emergency having been declared in New South Wales, here’s what you need to know about how the fires started. How did the Australian bushfires start? While wildfires can occur there year-round, Australia goes through a fire season during their warmer months because the hot, dry weather and wind makes it easy for flames to spread. This year, the combination of 40C temperatures and strong winds has caused the fires to spread.
The bushfires are often started by natural causes such as lightning strikes, however, humans are also sometimes to blame. Back in November, a man was arrested for allegedly starting the fire, which destroyed more than 5,400 hectares, in order to protect his marijuana plants.
How big are the bushfires now?
Authorities have said that 381 homes were destroyed in New South Wales this week, and in New South Wales and Victoria there are over 200 fires currently burning. On Thursday, a cloud of ash from the fires spread over 2,500 miles to New Zealand.
So far, tens of thousands of people have been left homeless by the fires in New South Wales and nearly half a billion animals have keen killed. There are fears that entire species may have been wiped out by the flames, with koalas having been labeled ‘functionally extinct’ in November.
Is it safe to visit Australia?
The Foreign Office is not currently cautioning against visiting Australia. If you have already planned to go, you should contact whoever runs the accommodation you’ve arranged to make sure they can still host you.
According to the government: ‘Poor air quality can occur some distance from the sites of the fires and provoke respiratory conditions. If you’re in or near an affected area or planning any travel, stay safe, monitor TV news, radio and social media channels for updates, and follow the instructions and advice of local authorities.’ Their website also highlights: ‘In the event of an emergency, always dial Triple Zero (000).’
Read more: metro.co.uk