"This video shows how heavy smoke from bushfires has prevented some C27J & C130J flights from reaching #Mallacoota & #Merimbula," Air Vice-Marshal Joe Iervasi, who commands Australian air forces, captioned the video. Mallacoota and Merimbula are located in the Australian states of Victoria and New South Wales, respectively.
— Air Commander (@RAAF_ACAUST) January 6, 2020
At least 136 fires continue to burn across New South Wales, causing at least 25 casualties, according to NPR. Of the casualties, 18 have been from New South Wales, which has been the area most affected by the blazes. Two people are still missing in New South Wales and at least 1,500 homes have been destroyed since the fires began in September 2019.
According to Australian officials, the bushfires have scorched more than 14.7 million acres of land, an area larger than the US state of West Virginia.
Although fires are common in Australia, this year’s blazes have been particularly potent due to high temperatures and strong winds, with more people than usual showing up at hospitals and medical centers due to breathing issues, according to government health officials, AFP reported.
Twenty-four Australians in New South Wales have been arrested since early November for intentionally setting fires in the country, according to local news reports, and 53 other people are currently facing legal action for not following the New South Wales fire ban; 47 others have faced legal action for tossing a lit cigarette or match in public, ABC News reported. Intentionally starting a bushfire or recklessly contributing to its spread can lead to a 21-year prison sentence, according to the New South Wales Police Force.
In addition to human casualties, nearly half a billion Australian animals, including reptiles, mammals and birds, have been wiped out by the bushfires since September, according to ecologists at the University of Sydney.