NASA satellite imagery has revealed the devastating impact of the wildfires that have been ravaging Australia’s Kangaroo Island.
The US space agency estimates that 155,000 hectares (600,000 square miles) of the island has been consumed by the rapacious blazes, describing it as “an ecological tragedy”.
Kangaroo Island, Australia’s third biggest island, is 70 miles (112km) southwest of Adelaide and has several nature reserves to protect the remnants of its natural vegetation and native animals including sea lions, koalas and diverse endangered bird species.
The island on 16 December and swipe left after extensive damage from bushfires on 7 January
It is a very popular tourist destination for both Australian and nature lovers and even boasts a colony of Ligurian honey bees.
Now, around a third of the island has been ravaged after bushfires began as lightning strikes within Flinders Chase National Park – the island’s largest and best-known park at the western end.
NASA said this is “not only just a major tragedy for the island but an ecological tragedy as well”.
More from Australia Bushfires
It said that ecologists within the park have estimated the number of koalas that have perished in the fires are around 25,000 – half of the island’s population of the species.
Before and after Terra satellite images taken on 16 December 2019 and 7 January 2020 clearly show burn scars as well as areas that are still on fire on one-third of the island. Actively burning fires are shown as red points.
Image: Bushfires sweeping through Stokes Bay in Kangaroo Island, Australia
Image: Australia bushfires
Fire-affected areas are characterised by deposits of charcoal and ash, removal of vegetation and possibly the alteration of vegetation structure.
NASA’s satellite instruments are often the first to detect wildfires burning in remote regions.
Oz fires: Kylie Jenner pledges $1m
Australia’s bushfires have razed more than 10.3 million hectares (103,000 sq km) of land – the size of South Korea – in recent months, particularly on the east coast.
The burnt area alone in New South Wales is more than five times larger than the whole expanse torched last year in Brazil, which saw major fires in the Amazon rainforest.
Image: A koala being nursed after being saved from bushfires on Kangaroo Island
The majority of the fires have occurred in New South Wales state, blanketing Sydney in smoke for much of December, and neighbouring state Victoria has endured the worst fires of the past week.
The New South Wales (NSW) coastal communities of Nowra, Narooma and Batemans Bay, situated south of Sydney, were urged to evacuate on Thursday as the return of hot weather and northwesterly winds fanned bushfires threatening communities.
:: A New Climate is a series of special podcasts from the Sky News Daily. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker
Tourists and residents have been forced to retreat to the beaches and even into the ocean in recent weeks as the ongoing fires and smoke encroach on towns and sand dunes.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been heavily criticised both at home and abroad for downplaying the need for his government to address climate change, which experts say is helping supercharge the blazes.
Image: A wildlife rescuer is seen with a koala rescued at a burning forest near Cape Borda on Kangaroo Island, southwest of Adelaide
The New South Wales government responded to the continuing crisis by announcing an additional $1bn (£520m) to be spent over the next two years on wildfire management and recovery.
About 100 firefighters from the United States and Canada are helping with another 140 expected in coming weeks.
Source : Sky News