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Fires in Australia are the second most destructive but not the deadliest

by ace
Fires in Australia are the second most destructive but not the deadliest

Australia's current fire season, which killed 25 people and destroyed an area larger than Portugal, was the second most destructive but not the deadliest in the country's history.

Almost all Australian states and territories except the Canberra region have been affected by fires since late October, but especially since the week before Christmas, with some 13 million hectares already burned.

In New South Wales alone, fires have already destroyed more than five million hectares, an area larger than the Netherlands, according to the latest estimate from the Australian Rural Fire Services (RFS).

In recent weeks, fires have had a particular impact on urban areas, with the latest RFS estimate to say that nearly 1,800 homes have been destroyed, more than 2,000 nationwide.

The total number is not yet known because in several areas populations have not yet returned home.

Some localities on the southern coast of the state have been more than 70 percent destroyed, with many regions without power and access to services, many locals withdrawn, populations displaced and unsure of when to return.

Although some rain helps control many of the fires, especially on the south coast, weather services anticipated a temperature rise later in the week, increasing the risk of new fires.

In the state of Vitoria, the area of ​​greatest concern is in the northwest, where fire teams continue to try to control several active fires, with several preventive measures in place.

One of the hardest hit areas was Malacoota, where virtually the entire population was withdrawn with support from the armed forces.

International teams of firefighters, notably from New Zealand, the United States and Canada, are already working to support Australian firefighters.

Still and despite the situation, the current fire season was neither the deadliest nor the most destructive.

According to academic Stephen Pyne, author of a book on the history of fires in Australia, the deadliest fires on record occurred in 2009, on a day known as “Black Saturday”, which killed 173 people.

This Saturday, February 7, 400 fires affected 78 locations in the state of Vitoria, during a period of prolonged drought, high winds and temperatures close to 43 degrees.

These fires destroyed 3,000 homes and left nearly 12,000 heads of cattle dead.

In terms of destruction, the largest record dates back to 1974 when it is estimated that fires in the central part of the country destroyed over 117 million hectares, more than ten times the area of ​​Portugal.

In the case of the latter, the fires occurred in remote areas without affecting many communities, with the extent of the damage to be noted only later.

Pyne noted that the number of massive and highly destructive fires has been increasing in recent decades, underlining that this suggests an additional impact of climate change, potentially enhancing risks that are already high at this time of year.

In 2003, the fires destroyed more than 70% of pasture areas, forests and nature parks, 488 homes and caused four deaths in Canberra territory.

At the "Black Christmas" of 2001, some 800,000 hectares in New South Wales and Canberra were destroyed by the 23-day flames.

Another historical record is February 16, 1983, where the fires killed 47 dead in Victoria and 28 in South Australia, with over 300,000 hectares and thousands of homes destroyed.

On February 7, 1967, in Tasmania, 62 people died in the fires and 900 were injured, while in Victoria on January 13, 1939, the flames caused 71 deaths and destroyed more than two million hectares.

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