Australia’s northern forests are experiencing the worst wildfire outbreak in recorded history, with more than 100 animals killed and dozens more being forced to flee.
The bushfires have engulfed the Taranaki region, which has long been regarded as a wildlife sanctuary, but have also devastated remote communities.
The Northern Territory’s Chief Minister, Stephen McNeil, has called the fires a “natural disaster” and said the “polar vortex” had caused the region to be hit hard.
“We are in a situation that is beyond our ability to control,” Mr McNeil said.
“And I believe that bears are part of our natural heritage and we should respect their presence here.”
But a number of wildlife groups have condemned the situation, arguing the bushfires were an unprecedented threat to wild animals in the Northern Territory and that the fires should be brought under control.
“These fires are a direct threat to all wildlife in the region,” WWF-Australia’s Northern Environment Manager, Michael Sibbins, said.
He said the fires had caused more than $4.5 billion in damage.
“There’s not been a single death in the last two days, and they’re burning on all sides of the fire lines, not just in the central part of the region, but all across the region in a very rapid and destructive fashion,” Mr Sibbin said.
Wildlife and Environment Minister, Peter Dutton, defended the fires, saying “the Northern Territory government is very committed to keeping the Northern Territories as safe as possible”.
“This fire has been very bad for wildlife,” he said.
Mr Dutton also pointed to the impact of climate change on the fires.
“It is an unprecedented event that has devastated the Tarasnak region and is now turning into the worst natural disaster in Australia since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s,” he told ABC TV.
“This is a disaster we’ve never seen before.
It is a situation we’re not prepared for.”‘
We are very lucky’The fires have devastated the region with more bushfires burning in Northern Territory towns and villages than at any time since the fires started in December 2016.
“The fire is destroying everything,” a resident in Taranak said.
“There are so many animals that have gone missing.
The fire has burned through all the roads.
It has destroyed everything in a matter of days.”
They are taking the lives of animals.
The animals that live in our forest are being wiped out by fire.
“Mr McNeil has said that the “natural” climate of the Taransaki would allow the fires to burn for up to 30 days before they were brought under controlled control.
But he acknowledged that the region would not be immune to climate change.”
With the amount of heat we have been receiving, it’s difficult to imagine the situation where we could possibly keep fires contained in that time period,” he explained.”
I think we are very fortunate to be here, and we will be here through the winter.
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