This “megafire”, the result of the fusion of several fires, ravaged an area three times the size of Greater London.
Australian firefighters announced on Monday 13 January that they have managed to control the country’s largest “mega fire”, which had been out of control for almost three months while rainy weather is expected.
The New South Wales fire brigade said it had finally got the upper hand in its fight against the huge inferno that was burning uncontrollably in the mountainous area of Gospers, north-west of the Sydney suburb.
Visiting the area on Monday, New South Wales rural fire chief Shane Fitzsimmons said “there is still a small area to be dealt with” but “the prognosis for containment looks promising”.
In this national park, the “mega-fire” ravaged an area three times the size of Greater London and generated further outbreaks, bringing the total number of hectares destroyed to 800,000, an area larger than Austria.
The fauna and flora very badly affected
As residents and authorities continued on Monday to cope with the scale of the disaster, weather services predicted up to 50 millimetres of rain next week in some affected areas, a relief after months of prolonged drought.
If these forecasts are confirmed, it will represent “all our Christmas, birthday, engagement, wedding anniversary and graduation presents all rolled into one. Keep your fingers crossed,” said Fitzsimmons. Dozens of other fires have already been brought under control.
Rush of donations
Linked to a particularly severe drought in Australia, these fires are aggravated by global warming. The fires have sparked a huge outpouring of solidarity around the world and donations are pouring in to help the people and animals affected.
Australia’s flora and fauna, which includes species unique in the world, have been hard hit. An estimated one billion animals have been killed, not counting the multitude of trees and shrubs that have gone up in smoke.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley has warned that in some areas koalas will have to be classified as endangered species.
59% of Australians are dissatisfied with the Prime Minister
The political impact of the crisis is also becoming increasingly evident. A poll released on Monday shows that the approval rate for Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s policies, which have been severely criticised for their handling of the crisis, has fallen.
The Newspoll indicates that 59 percent of Australians are dissatisfied with the Conservative Prime Minister, while 37 percent say they are satisfied, a sharp turnaround in opinion since his victory in the May election.
Scott Morrison is strongly decried, accused in particular of not having provided adequate responses to the devastating fires that began in September. He is accused of having gone on holiday to Hawaii in December, making a series of blunders, making false statements about his government’s actions and forcing victims to shake his hand.
Scott Morrison said at the start of the fires that local authorities had the means to manage them and that exhausted volunteer firefighters “wanted to be there. He also said repeatedly that Australia was doing more than enough to meet its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions while renewing its support for Australia’s lucrative but highly polluting coal industry.
On several occasions, the Australian people have expressed their anger in large-scale demonstrations.
In the face of this protest, Scott Morrison took action, deploying the army, calling in military reservists and promising billions of dollars in aid. He also increased the amount of allowances paid to firefighters and suggested that more should be done on CO2 emissions.