Wildfire Devours Australia
Wildfire Devours Australia
  • reporter Kim Min-gyu
  • 승인 2020.02.13 19:07
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▲Australian bushfire out of control

 

Australia is devasted by an on-going wildfire that has been inflicting severe damage to both Australian society and the ecosystem. Named as the ‘2019-20 Australian bushfire season’, it is cited to be the worst wildfire seen in decades as the fire shows no indication of being extinguished, burning for over 5 months, since September 2019. 
The Australian summer is notorious for its fire season. The dry, hot weather of Australia composes perfect conditions for blazes to start and spread. Fire seasons in Australia have caused catastrophes before; 1974-75 bushfires consumed over 100 million hectares or approximately 4.5 times the size of the Korean peninsula. The 2009 Black Saturday fires killed 173 people in Victoria. This fire season is recorded to be one of the worst fire seasons since it is spearheaded by multiple unfortunate conditions; an unprecedented heat wave accompanied by brisk winds, and an arid atmosphere due to a major drought has worsened this 2019-20 Australian bushfire season. 
The 2019-20 Australian wildfires has caused severe damage to Australian society. As of Jan.14, wildfires have burned an estimated of 18.6 million hectares, about 14% of the entire forest area of Australia. A total of 33 people across Australia have died, 25 victims from New South Wales (NSW). Cities on the southeast coast of Australia; states of NSW and Victoria are struggling with heavy structural destruction. Over 2000 homes have been burned to ashes in NSW only. 2019-20 Australian bushfire also poses a great threat to the Australian ecosystem. An ecologist from the University of Sydney claimed that half billion animals have perished in NSW. Later the ecologist proposed that one billion animals including bats, frogs, and insects; which are excluded in the prior figure, are affected by the wildfire nationwide. Almost a third of koalas in NSW are expected to be killed with a third of their habitat lost. Though Koalas are spread out across the nation with a sufficient population, which spares the koalas from extinction, many other rare species are facing imminent extinction as they are centered in a specific area with a relatively low population. On Dec. 8, 2019, blazes flew across the ocean and burned Australia’s one of the most important wildlife sanctuaries, Kangaroo Island. Kangaroo Island is renowned for its biodiversity and rare species. It contains several national parks, conservation parks, and wilderness protection areas including the worlds-first bee sanctuary. Experts expressed grave concerns for the endangered and unique species on Kangaroo Island as their critical habitat has been lost, and their diversity, even on the perilous level before the bushfire, is reaching its final limit. 
The government of Victoria and the government of New South Wales declared a State of Emergency on Jan. 2 in response to the deterioration of the bushfire. A declaration gives emergency services such as the Rural Fire Service the power to conduct several enforcements; close thoroughfares, control traffic, and forcibly evacuate members from the property within declared areas. Evacuation of residents and tourists have proceeded under state control and isolated residents are rescued through naval and air rescue operations launched by the Australian authorities. Residents of Mallacoota, Victoria were driven out to the beach and trapped, but were able to safely evacuate owing to a Navy vessel that rescued almost 1200 isolated residents, and an aircraft that rescued another 500. 3000 army, navy and air force reservists have been deployed, 3700 firefighters and support crew have been on the ground at any one time across the country during the worst periods. More than 240 firefighters from the US, Canada, and New Zealand arrived in Australia to help in putting out the fires. Though many personnel associated with fighting bushfires and aiding damaged communities are praised for their hard work, the Australian government has faced criticism in the handling of bushfire crisis. Australia Prime Minister, Scott Morrison encountered public outcry over his vacation to Hawaii in the middle of the bushfire outbreak. The criticism worsened after Tony Abbot, former PM of Australia, was caught on media volunteering as a firefighter in NSW. Climate policies adopted by the Morrison government are also being questioned as the Australian government is viewed as passive on addressing the climate crisis. The PM and his administration had to face nationwide rallies protesting for the government’s passivity on climate change on Jan.10. Though the PM of Australia refuses to believe the link between global warming and Australia bushfires, experts point out the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), which is interpreted as an effect of global warming, as the main factor of extreme conditions of the 2019-20 Australian bushfire season. The tragedy of the 2019-20 Australian bushfire season raises questions over climate crisis not only to the Australian government but also to all of us.


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