Curious koala sneaks into Australian home and climbs Christmas tree

By Jack Guy, CNN

Updated 10:49 AM ET, Thu December 3, 2020An adorable festive koala broke into an unsuspecting couple's home and set up camp in their Christmas tree.An adorable festive koala broke into an unsuspecting couple’s home and set up camp in their Christmas tree.

(CNN)Picture a Christmas tree and you’ll probably think of baubles, tinsel and fairy lights, but one Australian woman came home to find an unusual adornment: A koala.Surprised by the unusual visitor, Amanda McCormick, who lives in Coromandel Valley near Adelaide, southern Australia, called local koala rescue organization 1300Koalaz.”This evening our hotline operator took a call. At first she thought she was the victim of a prank call,” wrote the organization in a Facebook post Wednesday.”But no, a koala desperate to get in the Christmas spirit had wandered into Amanda McCormick’s house and decided it wanted to be the fairy on the Christmas tree.”

Koala populations are in decline due to increased human impacts on nature

Koala populations are in decline due to increased human impacts on natureDee Hearne-Hellon, 1300Koalaz co-founder, told CNN that it is not unheard of for koalas to enter homes, but it’s not an everyday occurrence.”The koala was a healthy juvenile female and was released out the front of the house, which is in a really lovely area for koalas if they have to live amongst us,” said Hearne-Hellon. “The koala was still in the same tree she chose to climb when I saw her today (Thursday).”The team celebrated the successful removal on Facebook with a festive ditty: “Tis the season to be jolly, Koalalalala Lalalala.”However, Hearne-Hellon warned against trying to move koalas by yourself.”(The) best thing to do is leave them alone as they can get aggressive and call 1300koalaz to remove them,” she said. “As cute as they look they have very long claws and very sharp teeth.”

First baby koala born in Australian wildlife park since devastating New South Wales bushfires

First baby koala born in Australian wildlife park since devastating New South Wales bushfiresKoalas are one of Australia’s most famous animals, but populations are under increasing threat due to the impact of humans.Bushfires, habitat fragmentation, vehicle collisions and dog attacks — all which hurt koalas — have been getting worse over the last decade.That has led to species population decline and increased disease among koalas, according to research published in the academic journal PLOS ONE at the end of October.The number of diseased koalas increased over the course of 30 years, while the number of sick koalas that could be released back into the wild dropped, the study said.An earlier version of this story made the common but forgivable error that koalas are a type of bear. While they share some physical characteristics with bears (fuzzy ears, cute noses), they are marsupials.

CNN’s Lauren Kent contributed to this report.

Massive coral reef taller than the Empire State Building found off Australian coast


OCTOBER 27, 2020 / 12:52 PM / CBS NEWS

The diagnosis for the future of coral reefs around the world has been bleak in recent years, as climate change threatens to wipe them out completely. But scientists have recently made an exciting discovery that offers some hope — a massive reef off the coast of Australia, larger than some of the world’s most impressive skyscrapers.

During a 12-month exploration of the ocean around Australia, scientists last week discovered an enormous detached coral reef in the Great Barrier Reef — the first to be discovered in over 120 years. According to the Schmidt Ocean Institute, the reef measures more than 1,640 feet, which is taller than the Empire State Building, the Sydney Tower and the Petronas Twin Towers. 

A team of scientists led by Dr. Robin Beaman discovered the massive reef off North Queensland on October 20, before diving to explore it on Sunday. They found that the base of the “blade-like” reef is nearly a mile wide and rises over 1,600 feet to just 130 feet below the ocean’s surface. 

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The new reef joins seven other tall detached reefs in the area, which have all been mapped since the late 1800s. Beaman said the team is “surprised and elated” by the discovery. Dive 401 – Newly Discovered 500m Tall Reef by Schmidt Ocean on YouTube

“This unexpected discovery affirms that we continue to find unknown structures and new species in our Ocean,” Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Ocean Institute, said in a news release Monday. “The state of our knowledge about what’s in the ocean has long been so limited. Thanks to new technologies that work as our eyes, ears and hands in the deep ocean, we have the capacity to explore like never before. New oceanscapes are opening to us, revealing the ecosystems and diverse life forms that share the planet with us.”

The Great Barrier Reef, the largest in the world, is home to more than 1,600 species of fish and over 400 species of hard corals. But it is facing an ecological catastrophe, as more than 50% of its corals have died in the last 25 years, mostly due to climate change causing mass bleaching events. The reef is at risk of losing its coveted World Heritage status because of ocean warming damaging its health.

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But scientists are continuing to explore the mysteries of the Great Barrier Reef — and they aren’t giving up hope that it could be saved. 

“To find a new half-a-kilometer tall reef in the offshore Cape York area of the well-recognized Great Barrier Reef shows how mysterious the world is just beyond our coastline,” said Dr. Jyotika Virmani, executive director of Schmidt Ocean Institute. “This powerful combination of mapping data and underwater imagery will be used to understand this new reef and its role within the incredible Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.”  

A newly-discovered 500-meter tall detached reef adds to the seven other tall detached reefs in the northern Great Barrier Reef.

Fears koalas could be extinct in NSW by 2050 prompts calls to halt salvage logging

JUNE 30 2020 – 1:30PM

Federal Politics

Even before the fires, koalas had seen a 26 per cent decline in numbers in NSW. Picture: Karleen Minney.

 Even before the fires, koalas had seen a 26 per cent decline in numbers in NSW. Picture: Karleen Minney.

The NSW government has been urged to rethink salvage logging operations in the state, after a parliamentary inquiry found koalas could become extinct in the next 30 years without urgent action.

A Greens and Labor-dominated NSW parliamentary committee has found koala populations have been shrinking throughout the state, due to the effects of land clearing for agriculture, mining and development.

It concluded the official government estimate of 36,000 koalas within the state was “outdated and unreliable”, given dramatic declines in key local populations since 2012.

At least 5000 koalas are also estimated to have perished during the 2019-20 bushfires.

Some parts of the state, such as Port Macquarie, lost up to 90 per cent of their koala populations in the fires.

“Given the scale of loss to koala populations across New South Wales as a result of the 2019- 20 bushfires and without urgent government intervention to protect habitat and address all other threats, the koala will become extinct in NSW before 2050,” their report said.

The committee called for a halt to salvage logging operations in light of the fires.

“In light of the above evidence and the ongoing recovery efforts in burnt forests, the committee acknowledges that the forests are essential habitats for not just koalas, but other threatened species, and need to be monitored for recovery before any further decisions about salvage logging are made,” their report said.

“The committee thus recommends that the government consider the impacts of logging in all public native (non-plantation) forests in the context of enabling koala habitat to be first identified and then protected by a combination of transferring land to national parks … where appropriate.”

It also urged the government to rule out opening up old growth forests in the state forest reserve for logging.

The inquiry was set up more than a year ago after series concerns about the future of the koala.

Even before the fires, the species had seen a 26 per cent decline in numbers.

The committee heard from James Fitzgerald, a wildlife carer based near Canberra, who lost both his home and all of his animal enclosures in the January fires. The koalas he had rescued from earlier fires were also lost.

Mr Fitzgerald said many koalas he was now finding were extremely thin and had to euthanised.

“Their luck is running out because there is just no food across vast areas,” Mr Fitzgerald told the inquiry.

The species was also vulnerable to the increasing impacts of climate change.

The recent drought also meant koalas were no longer able to get adequate hydration from eucalyptus leaves, and were descending from trees to drink from garden hoses and water bowls.

Chair of the committee, Greens MP Cate Faehrmann, warned future generations may not see a koala in the wild again if the report was ignored.

“Following the disastrous 2019-20 bushfire season, it is undoubtable that the game has changed dramatically for koalas. The evidence could not be more stark. The only way our children’s grandchildren will see a koala in the wild in NSW will be if the government acts upon the committee’s recommendations,” Ms Faehrmann said.

‘Probably the worst year in a century’: the environmental toll of 2019

The annual Australia’s Environment report finds last year’s heat and drought caused unprecedented damage

The sun glows red during the ACT bushfires
 The sun glows red during the ACT bushfires, one of the events that contributed to a disastrous 2019 for the environment in Australia. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Record heat and drought across Australia delivered the worst environmental conditions across the country since at least 2000, with river flows, tree cover and wildlife being hit on an “unprecedented scale”, according to a new report.

The index of environmental conditions in Australia scored 2019 at 0.8 out of 10 – the worst result across all the years analysed from 2000.

The year delivered unprecedented bushfiresrecord heat, very low soil moisture, low vegetation growth and 40 additions to the threatened species list.

The report’s lead author, Prof Albert van Dijk of the Australian National University’s Fenner school of environment and society, told Guardian Australia 2019 was “probably the worst in a century or more” for the environment.

“This is not the new normal – this is just getting worse and worse,” he said, adding that 2019 had seen a “continuing descent into an ever more dismal future. You start to see ecosystems fall apart and then struggle to recover before the next major disturbance.”

The Australia’s Environment report scored environmental conditions across seven indicators – inundation, streamflow, vegetation growth, leaf area, soil protection, tree cover and the number of hot days.

Across all years analysed, 2005 was the next worst year, impacted by the millennium drought. The year 2010 was the best; it was also one of Australia’s wettest on record.

Van Dijk said the cause of the impacts for 2019 were global heating as well as natural variability in Australia’s climate. The number of days above 35C was 36% higher than the previous 19 years.

The population had continued to grow and the country’s greenhouse gas emissions had remained high, the report said.

Greenhouse gas emissions per person were 11% below the 2000-18 average, but remained among the highest in the world because of high energy use per person and the burning of coal for electricity.

Findings were underpinned by about 1m gigabytes of data, including satellite data that only became available from 2000, as well as field data and on-the-ground surveys.

Reviewing biodiversity impacts, the report highlighted the number of spectacled flying foxes – one of many species vulnerable to heat stress – had dropped to 47,000 from an average of 100,000 before 2016.

The numbers of threatened species had risen by 36% since 2000, the report said.

River flows were 43% below the 2000-18 average, causing water storages to drop and mass fish deaths in the Murray-Darling Basin, and wetland environments had also seen record-low inundation.

River flows were above average around the coast of northern Queensland, around Karratha in Western Australia and at Strahan in Tasmania’s west.

The protection of soils by vegetation and moisture was “extremely poor”, causing dust storms. The average soil moisture was also lowest since at least 2000 and farming productivity had been hit.

The Great Barrier Reef, which has just experienced its third mass bleaching event in five years, had escaped bleaching in 2019 but its condition remained poor.

World heritage-listed Gondwana rainforests, the Blue Mountains, alpine regions, eastern Gippsland and Kangaroo Island had all been badly hit by bushfires.

A co-author of the report, Dr Marta Yebra, said: “Our data clearly shows that the combination of dry forests and hot weather made for an especially explosive mixture.”

All the findings and data from the report, now in its fifth year, can be viewed on a website and interactive map.

Hundreds of koalas brutally massacred during routine logging in Victoria, says Animals Australia

Heartbreaking images of a brutal koala “massacre” have surfaced – and their deaths have nothing to do with the fires. WARNING: Graphic

Adrianna Zappavigna 2, 20208:18PM


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Hundreds of koalas have reportedly been killed in Victoria this week, with heartbreaking images surfacing online, after logging 12km west of Portland.

Animals Australia has shared heartbreaking images of injured and dead koalas – now a threatened species after one of Australia’s most damaging bushfire seasons on record – from a razed bluegum plantation.

“Koalas are having their homes mowed down,” said Animals Australia.

“On becoming aware of this situation on Friday, we flew in a veterinary team,” Animals Australia confirmed on Sunday morning.

“With the support of local authorities and wildlife carers, vets are seeking to save as many of these precious animals as possible.”

RELATED: ‘The koala desperately needs our help’

RELATED: Have bushfires rendered koalas ‘functionally extinct’?

The details of this case are still unknown, Animals Australia confirmed on Sunday.

“We are still gathering the details as to what has occurred in this case but it would appear that there are various breaches of legislation, including the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which we will be supporting authorities to pursue,” they said on social media.

“By law, the companies that own these plantations must provide koala ‘spotters’ to identify koalas in trees before logging commences, so that animals can be safely removed and relocated.

“There is also a legal responsibility to ensure the welfare of koalas after logging has ceased.”

It’s assumed that in the wake of recent habitat destruction due to bushfires, many koalas sought refuge on commercial property. “The logging of these forests then destroys precious habitat,” shared Animals Australia.

Wildlife Victoria CEO Dr Megan Davidson said it was impossible to understand how the logging could happen if koalas were in them.

“In these tragic cases, we are so sad not only for the animals, but also for the wildlife carers and vets who are on the ground dealing with the horrors of dead, broken, sick and orphaned animals,” Davidson said.

Dead koalas were spotted after the logging took place. Picture: Twitter – @AnimalsAus

Dead koalas were spotted after the logging took place. Picture: Twitter – @AnimalsAusSource:Twitter

The logging took place on a plantation in Victoria, 12-14km west of Portland. Picture: Twitter – @AnimalsAus

The logging took place on a plantation in Victoria, 12-14km west of Portland. Picture: Twitter – @AnimalsAusSource:Twitter

It's unclear how many koalas were killed during the logging. Picture: Friends of the Earth Australia.

It’s unclear how many koalas were killed during the logging. Picture: Friends of the Earth Australia.Source:Twitter

Devastated social media users were quick to share posts, tagging local and national MPs while trying to raise awareness.

“This is murder,” wrote one user on social media, sharing pictures of koalas crushed under the weight of felled trees.

“I thought burned koalas was bad enough,” wrote another.

One user added, “This is too much. Please ensure those responsible are held accountable for this unconscionable act. The cruelty of human beings apparently has no limits.”

“Here’s a thought,” shared Animals Australia. “How about instead of planting plantations then mowing them down, we should be planting blue gum and leaving them for koalas to live in.”

Facebook post by registered nurse Helen Oakley has already garnered 1100 reactions in the last 24 hours, as she films herself walking through the razed plantation.

“They’ve bulldozed 140 acres down and just killed all of our koalas,” she struggles to say through tears.

“There’s koalas lying there dead. Mothers killed and only little babies … Australia should be ashamed of this.”

Helen Oakley's emotional video has been shared over 4000 times. Picture: Facebook.

Helen Oakley’s emotional video has been shared over 4000 times. Picture: Facebook.Source:Facebook

The gruesome images have ignited calls for change at a national level, with a petition already up and running.

“This barbaric practice needs to stop across the state and immediately,” the petition – directed to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews – reads.

According to the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) there are less than 100,000 koalas left in the wild and the population could be in fact as low as 43,000.

If Australia’s koala population falls below 50,000 it would be “functionally extinct”, the AKF said.

Australia’s Marine Animals Are the Fires’ Unseen Victims

As wildfires ravage Australia’s land and forests, so far killing an estimated one billion terrestrial animals, researchers worry marine and freshwater species will become invisible victims.

More than 17.1 million hectares of land have burned across the country, with the worst fires currently raging in New South Wales and Victoria, states in the nation’s southeast, according to Australia’s Department of the Environment and Energy (DEE). Adrian Meder, a marine campaigner at the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), says these fires are leaving behind a huge number of charred plants and a massive amount of ash.

Though Australia is in the midst of a massive drought, when the rain inevitably returns—as it already has in some regions—this organic matter will rush into rivers and flow into coastal lakes, estuaries, and seagrass and seaweed beds.

The free-flowing silt will get into fish’s gills and block sunlight that seagrass and seaweed beds need for photosynthesis, efectively strangling them. “It’s essentially like putting a shade cloth all over the entire system,” says Leonardo Guida, a shark campaigner with AMCS.

The slurry of potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen will se alga in the water to bloom. The algae will consume the oxygen in the water, suffocating species that rely on it.

The fires have also torched many forests near the coast, destroying plants that filter silt and excess nutrients. The ecosystems are adapted to the low nutrient flows from the land, Meder explains. But “these fires have effectively clear-felled areas on a scale that hasn’t been seen before.”

Many commercial aquatic species, such as flathead, snapper, prawns, and various shellfish, begin their lives in coastal lakes and seagrass and seaweed beds. These coastal habitats are also spawning areas for species, including seahorses, and their degradation could send ripples throughout the larger ecosystem, the researchers say.

Some of these effects are already being felt. In southern New South Wales and Victoria and on Kangaroo Island, the fires are causing problems for fisheries and aquaculture, according to DEE.

When the rain began in the Central Coast region of New South Wales, members of the Darkinjung, a local Aboriginal land council, set up barriers to keep the deluge of silt- and ash-filled water out of the region’s rivers, lakes, and estuaries. According to Kelvin Johnson, a senior land management officer with the Darkinjung, they have already seen some dead fish in nearby rivers.

The wildfires and their aftermath have caused and could continue to cause cultural damage as well, Johnson says.

Australia’s Indigenous peoples, Johnson says, use sacred songlines—a complex mix of celestial references, songs, oral history, and physical and cultural landmarks—to navigate terrestrial and aquatic routes. Though it’s too early to know the extent of the damage, Johnson says if the fires harm oysters, crustaceans, flathead, or mullet, that would mark a loss of these cultural touchstones.

Last week, Australia’s federal government announced an AU $50-million (US $35-million) recovery fund (part of its AU $2-billion bushfire fund) to restore and protect damaged ecosystems and wildlife. But there has been no funding dedicated to marine and aquatic areas, Guida says. DEE notes that some of those funds may go to emergency interventions, such as erosion control, to stem sediment flows into aquatic ecosystems.

The ocean and the coast need dedicated help, Guida says. Though the devastation on land is much more visible, the health of the ocean and the land are intrinsically tied together.

10,000 camels at risk of being shot in Australia as they desperately search for water

The number of wild camels in Australia has increased in recent years.

(CNN)About 10,000 camels are at risk of being shot and killed in a drought-ravaged region of Australia, after complaints that the thirsty animals are endangering locals as they desperately search for water.

Aboriginal officials in the remote northwest of South Australia approved the cull, which is due to begin on Wednesday and is expected to last for five days.
The area’s local government, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY), said in a memo posted on Facebook that “extremely large groups of camels and other feral animals in and around communities” are “putting pressure on the remote Aboriginal communities” as they search for water.
“With the current ongoing dry conditions the large camel congregations threatening the APY communities and infrastructure, camel control is needed,” the note added.
The cull will see professional shooters kill thousands of the creatures, with CNN affiliate Seven News reporting that 10,000 are at risk.
Like most of the country, South Australia has been sweltering under extremely high temperatures for weeks.
Though not as badly hit as neighboring New South Wales, the state has suffered from the bushfires tearing through the country, blanketing cities in smoke and decimating native wildlife populations.
Marita Baker, an APY board member, told The Australian newspaper that her community had been inundated by the creatures as they hunt for water.
“We have been stuck in stinking hot and uncomfortable conditions, feeling unwell, because the camels are coming in and knocking down fences, getting in around the houses and trying to get to water through air conditioners,” she told the newspaper.
The APY region is in an extremely remote area of South Australia and is sparsely populated. Only about 2,300 people live in the region, which is roughly the size of the US state of Kentucky.
There are believed to be more than 1 million camels in Australia and the country’s camel population is growing rapidly.
Camels are far from the only species suffering in heat waves and wildfires.
Various creatures have been found desperately approaching humans for something to drink in recent weeks, and last month a video of a koala chugging from a cyclist’s water bottle went viral.
In another grim, viral video posted on Twitter, a man drives into the fire-ravaged town of Batlow in New South Wales, filming both sides of the road littered with the charred remains of animals.
It is estimated that hundreds of millions of animals have been killed by the blazes.
Fires are nothing new in Australia, but they have been growing more intense and becoming more destructive in recent years, a problem that has been exacerbated by climate change. And animals have been on the front lines as Australia has the highest rate of species loss of any area in the world, and researchers fear that rate could increase as the fire disaster continues

Police in Australia charged 24 people for deliberately lighting bushfires

Small spot fires still burn on January 05, 2020 between Orbost and Cann River along the Princes Highway, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

NEW SOUTH WALES, Australia — The New South Wales Police Force has taken legal action against more than 180 people for bushfire-related offenses since late last year. That number includes 24 people who deliberately lit bushfires.

Nationwide, at least 25 people have been killed and 2,000 homes destroyed by the blazes, which have so far scorched an area twice the size of the U.S. state of Maryland, the Associated Press reports.

Wildfires are common during the southern hemisphere summer, and Australians generally take a pragmatic view of them. But this year’s fires arrived unusually early, fed by drought and the country’s hottest and driest year on record.

Rain and cooler temperatures on Monday were bringing some relief to communities battling the fires. But the rain was also making it challenging for fire crews to complete strategic burns as they tried to prepare for higher temperatures that have been forecast for later in the week.

Ecologists say half a billion animals may have been killed by Australia wildfires: ‘Entire species are being wiped out’

Ecologists at the University of Sydney are estimating that nearly half a billion animals have been killed in Australia’s unprecedented and catastrophic wildfires, which have sparked a continent-wide crisis and forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in desperation.

News Corp Australia reported Wednesday that “there are real concerns entire species of plants and animals have been wiped out by bushfires following revelations almost 500 million animals have died since the crisis began.”


“Ecologists from the University of Sydney now estimate 480 million mammals, birds, and reptiles have been lost since September,” according to News Corp. “That figure is likely to soar following the devastating fires which have ripped through Victoria and the [New South Wales] South Coast over the past couple of days, leaving several people dead or unaccounted for, razing scores of homes and leaving thousands stranded.”

The horrifying figures come as images and videos of animals suffering severe burns and dehydration continue to circulate on social media.

Mark Graham, an ecologist with the National Conservation Council, told the Australian parliament that “the fires have burned so hot and so fast that there has been significant mortality of animals in the trees, but there is such a big area now that is still on fire and still burning that we will probably never find the bodies.”


Koalas in particular have been devastated by the fires, Graham noted, because they “really have no capacity to move fast enough to get away.”

As Reuters reported Tuesday, “Australia’s bushland is home to a range of indigenous fauna, including kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, possums, wombats, and echidnas. Officials fear that 30 percent of just one koala colony on the country’s northeast coast, or between 4,500 and 8,400, have been lost in the recent fires.”

Greenpeace NZ


The new normal, except it isn’t.

It’s going to get much worse.

And the longer we delay climate action, the worse it will get 

Half a billion animals perish in Australian bushfires

A staggering 500 million animals are believed to have died in bushfires since September.

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Australia’s coal-touting Prime Minister Scott Morrison has faced growing scrutiny for refusing to take sufficient action to confront the wildfires and the climate crisis that is driving them. Since September, the fires have burned over 10 million acres of land, destroyed more than a thousand homes, and killed at least 17 people—including 9 since Christmas Day.

On Thursday, the government of New South Wales (NSW) declared a state of emergency set to take effect Friday morning as the wildfires are expected to intensify over the weekend.

“We’ve got a lot of fire in the landscape that we will not contain,” said Rob Rogers, deputy commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service. “We need to make sure that people are not in the path of these fires.”

Blood-red skies loom over southeast Australia after deadly bushfires bring ‘one of worst days ever’

(CNN)Skies turned blood red above parts of southeast Australia on Sunday as residents sought refuge from deadly bushfires, and a senior firefighter described the previous 24 hours as “one of our worst days ever.”

Photographs of Pambula, in the state of New South Wales, showed an eerie, smoke-filled landscape, with deserted streets illuminated by an otherworldly, blazing red sky.
About 30 kilometers (19 miles) south, blood-red skies loomed over the town of Eden. There, hundreds of residents were seeking shelter on the beach on police advice, one Eden resident told CNN. Many houses have been destroyed in the area, and officials said they feared there would be fatalities.
A total of 146 fires are burning across the state, with 65 uncontained, according to the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSWRFS). About 2,700 firefighters were tackling the blazes on Sunday.
“Conditions have eased today and firefighters have gained the upper hand on several dangerous fires. There are no total fire bans in place for Monday,” the NSWRFS posted on Twitter.
A blood-red sky looms over Eden, New South Wales, on January 5, 2020.

Earlier, NSWRFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told a news conference that Saturday was “one of our worst days ever on record.”
A “considerable number” of properties were lost across NSW on Saturday, Fitzsimmons said, adding that a 47-year-old man had died from cardiac arrest while fighting a fire threatening his friend’s home in Batlow. The man is the 24th person to die nationwide this fire season.
Separately, four firefighters in NSW were hospitalized due to smoke inhalation, heat exhaustion and hand burns. They have since been released.
Fitzsimmons said that conditions could worsen again in the coming days. “Today will be a relief — psychological relief but not what we need,” he said.
Fire-induced thunderstorms over New South Wales, seen from a flight on January 5, 2020.

Australia’s flag carrier Qantas canceled all flights to and from the country’s capital, Canberra, on Sunday due to smoke and hazardous weather conditions.
An airline passenger spotted huge clouds caused by the fires over NSW during a flight from Sydney to Melbourne on Sunday. They are pyrocumulonimbus clouds — fire-induced thunderstorms — which form when hot air rises from a ground based fire, according to CNN meteorologists. The air cools and condenses as it ascends, causing a cloud to form.
“This process is similar to the development of a thunderstorm,” said CNN Weather’s Derek Van Dam. “As such, a downdraft forms within the base of the pyrocumulonimbus cloud, allowing for embers to be picked up and carried to form new fires.”
In the neighboring state of Victoria, three fires have combined to form a single blaze bigger than the New York borough of Manhattan. The fires joined overnight Friday in the Omeo region, creating a 6,000-hectare (23 square mile) blaze, according to Gippsland’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
The country’s capital, Canberra, smashed its heat record of 80 years, reaching 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) on Saturday afternoon, according to the country’s Bureau of Meteorology. In the western Sydney suburb of Penrith, the mercury climbed to 48.9 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit) — setting a new record for the whole Sydney basin.
Victoria has declared a state of disaster, and NSW has declared a state of emergency — both granting extraordinary powers and additional government resources to battle the fires.
It marked the first time Victoria has activated these powers since the 2009 Black Saturday fires, the deadliest bushfire disaster on record in Australia with 173 people killed and 500 injured.
Speaking at a news conference Sunday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was another difficult night across the country — in particular in NSW, Victoria and South Australia.
Morrison — who in December faced criticism for taking a vacation to Hawaii during the fires — said the government’s response was the most significant and comprehensive ever to a natural disaster.
An eerie, smoke-filled landscape in Pambula, New South Wales, on January 5, 2020.

“I believe that’s where we need to focus our attention, and we are seeking to communicate that directly to Australians to ensure they have comfort that the response is matching the need,” he said.
“Sure there’s been a lot of commentary, there’s been plenty of criticism. I’ve had the benefit of a lot of analysis on a lot of issues. But I can’t be distracted by that, and the public, I know, are not distracted by that.
“What they need us to focus on, all of us actually, all of us focusing on the needs there and getting the support where it needs to go. That’s very much where my focus is, and that’s where it will continue to be.”
In a news release on Sunday, the Australia Defence Force (ADF) said it was significantly increasing its support in fighting the massive fires and had called up 3,000 army reserve forces and others with specialist capabilities.
An Australian army soldier helps people evacuate onto a Black Hawk helicopter in Omeo, Victoria on January 5, 2020.

They will also provide aircraft, ships and its largest vessel, HMAS Adelaide, with helicopter landing capabilities.
One priority for the ADF will be to assist in evacuations of people in isolated communities. HMAS Adelaide, the Australian Navy’s largest ship, arrived off the coast of Eden on Sunday as evacuations took place there.
Some ADF bases will be opened to house those displaced by the fires. Troops will also help move material and supplies, support recovery centers, and aid in fire trail clearance.
New Zealand and Singapore have also offered military support, and the ADF is assessing where they can help, the news release said.
Members of the UK royal family sent their “thoughts and prayers” to Australians affected by the massive bushfires through social media accounts on Saturday. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip issued a message of condolence expressing thanks to emergency services. “I have been deeply saddened to hear of the continued bushfires and their devastating impact across many parts of Australia,” the Queen wrote in a statement published on Twitter.
On their Instagram account, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge said they were “shocked and deeply saddened” by “the fires that are destroying homes, livelihoods and wildlife across much of Australia,” posting a photo of a kangaroo with a burning building in the background.
Meanwhile, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex urged support for those affected by the environmental crisis in an Instagram post linking to a number of Australian fundraisers, such as the Australian Red Cross, the Country Fire Authority and the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.