Australia is being ravaged by the worst wildfires that has left over two dozen people dead, and the country devastated since the fire season began in late July.
The bushfire crisis has burned over 10 million hectares of land and largely affected wildlife of the place.
What is causing the fires?
Every year during summer, Australia gets a fire season. The hot, dry weather makes it easy for blazes to start and spread.
Natural causes like lightning strikes in drought-affected forests are to be blamed most of the times.
However, humans can also be to blame. NSW police have charged at least 24 people with deliberately starting bushfires, and have taken legal action against 183 people for fire-related offenses since November, according to a police statement.
Can other countries help in any way?
Australian officials ask people to contribute by sending money via official fundraising websites. What people in affected areas say they don’t need is donations of food, clothing or other physical contributions. Emergency officials say they have no way of storing or distributing these items and what people on the ground really need is cash.
Can I visit Australia during this emergency?
The tourism of Australia remains unaffected and most tourism businesses are still open.
However, you should check the most recent condition and advice before departing.
You can remain informed on the happenings on ground through the government agencies, the Bureau of Meteorology and local tourism staff.
There’s no advice as such to avoid travelling to Australia. But, the air quality is poor at some distance of sites of the fires and so it may provoke respiratory conditions.
If you have done bookings for your tour, you should checkout with the tourist officials. However, they are most likely to deny for any refund until you have got the tour insured.
How long will it take for land to recover?
There’s a long way to go before this is over. Australia’s fire season usually continues until well into March.
The fires are expected to last for many weeks, and the recovery process will go on for many years.
Some plants and forests have evolved to cope with. But the scale and intensity of these fires has been unprecedented, so there is fear even seeds deep in the soil may have been damaged.
Dr Blanch says some forests will never recover, while it will most likely be decades before some trees will be big enough to have the holes needed for animals to live in.
“Hence the damage from these fires could last at least two centuries,” he says.
Some of Australia’s largest cities have also been affected, including Melbourne and Sydney — where fires have damaged homes in the outer suburbs and thick plumes of smoke have blanketed the urban center. Earlier in December, the smoke was so bad in Sydney that air quality measured 11 times the “hazardous” level.