North Australia Floods as the South is Ravaged by Flames


Zach Hardy, Writer

Slider image from Wikipedia

The word “megablaze” is a word most people didn’t know existed until recently. A megablaze is a fire that forms from a few other smaller fires. One of these megablazes raged through Australia in the last few months, burning over 16 million acres of land since the blaze started in late October. It all started when a bolt of lightning struck an area of land on Gospers Mountain in Wirraba and lit the dry woods on fire. The fire that started on Gospers Mountain eventually grew so large that it merged with two smaller fires. And thus, the megablaze was born.

 What sets the Australian fire apart from other wildfires is how it burned through populated areas. Tens of thousands of homes were engulfed in flames, and 24 people died amongst the chaos. At one point, there was so much smoke in the atmosphere that the air quality in Sydney was 11 times higher than the hazardous breathing level.

 Along with these deaths, there have been billions of animals displaced and killed. A certain species of dunnart, a mouse-like marsupial native to Australia that was endangered before the fire may face extinction sooner rather than later. As of now, there are less than 500 of these dunnarts left in the world. The toll on the animal world could be devastating to Australia’s ecosystem.

The endangered dunnart species in Australia. Image from Wikimedia

 In an interview with the New York Times, Manu Sanders, a researcher and insect ecologist at the University of New England in Armidale, said that the animal’s habitats will be destroyed regardless if some survive. “It doesn’t matter . . . they’ll die anyway,” says Sanders. Take for example the long-footed potoroo. It is a marsupial that inhabits damp forests that scientists say may never recover from the fires. Another example is the Kangaroo Island glossy black cockatoo that only eats seeds of she-oak trees that have been consumed by fire.

The long-footed potoroo. Image from Flickr

These effects do not have one clear cause. The most likely and widely accepted cause for the fires was the extreme drought Australia has been experiencing that is arguably due to climate change. What has not been recognized, though, is that the fires are not the only natural disaster occurring in the country. 

The glossy black cockatoo. Image from Tree of Life Web Project

While the fires blazed in the south, there were flash floods in the north. About a week ago, Australia enjoyed its first rain in months. At first, it seemed that it would help with the fires, but when the rain fell, it became clear that all it was doing was creating more damage and chaos in the north. 

For example, the town of Normington was hit by flash floods along with about 8 inches of rain in a span of 24 hours. Although the tropical storm causing the flash floods has weakened, Australia is not out of danger yet. Some towns and cities are said to receive another 8 inches of rain by the end of this week. The flash floods in the north along with the raging fires in the south have ravaged Australia. The fires were the worst seen in Australia, and there is still one more month left of summer in the year. On a good note, multiple high-profile figures including Jeff Bezos and Keith Urban have donated money towards emergency services and rebuilding in Australia. There have also been multiple charity funds opened for Australia’s benefit.

The effects of the flooding in North Australia. Image from Wikimedia