Thousands Flee To Beaches In ‘Apocalyptic’ Australian Bushfires

Thousands of people fled to beaches in Victoria, Australia on 30 December 2019 as bushfires continue to rage across the country whilst temperatures hit 40 degrees celsius in every state. Officials have confirmed another two people – believed to be father and son – were killed by the fires, bringing the total death toll to 12. With skies full of smoke, more than a dozen emergency level blazes are burning across both New South Wales and Victoria: the two most populous states in Australia.

For Australians living in these communities, it is an incredibly distressing time. In Mallacoota, where the fire swept through the town destroying a significant number of buildings, residents fled to beaches as warning sirens began to go off as early as 8 o’clock in the morning on New Year’s Day. David Jeffery accounts his experiences to the BBC:

“It should have been daylight but it was black like midnight and we could hear the fire roaring, we were all terrified for our lives. There’s a rock wall that they’ve built to keep back the sea, and that was where we were going to jump into the water if the radiant heat had hit.”

A local fireman, Steve Warrington, told the BBC, “It is pitch black, it is quite scary… the community right now is under threat but we will hold our line and they will be saved and protected.”

There is no knowing when these fires will end, covering over five million hectares and rising. The environmental and human consequences they bring are disastrous. There is no doubt climate change is driving this crisis, and if proper measures are not taken soon, the Australian people – as well as the rest of the earth’s population – will struggle to live on a new, more flammable and volatile world.

But is this a necessity? No. We need radical global climate action to combat the extreme and life threatening effects of climate change such as these, and wealthier countries such as Australia must be leading this drive. Yet, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has consistently attempted to deny the link between climate change and the bushfires, and even tries to avoid the subject of climate change completely. This comes as Australia’s response to climate change has been ranked one of the worst in the G20, with consistently rising greenhouse gas emissions.

The Australian public, whilst recognizing the brilliant effort of their school strikes, needs to use this disaster to engender larger and firmer demand for swift climate action. If we are to get governments to truly take radical action, the public will has to be there. With the IPCC report threatening that we may only have 10 years left to prevent catastrophic global warming, people in Australia and across the world must act with determination – or only see much worse effects in the near worryingly near future.

Rosie Latchford