Australia fires: How the world has responded to the crisis

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Firefighters tackle a bushfire in thick smoke in the town of Moruya, south of Batemans Bay, in New South Wales on 4 January, 2020.
Fire crews have been working for months to tackle the blazes

The world has watched with horror as bushfires have torn across Australia, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.

The blazes have razed almost 2,000 homes, and killed at least 25 people and hundreds of millions of animals since they began in September.

People in Australia and abroad, including politicians and celebrities, have been eager to find ways to offer assistance and support.

But authorities have warned that some kinds of help can actually be a hindrance and overwhelm fire-affected communities.

Here are some of the ways that the world has responded to Australia’s bushfire crisis, and what help those responding to the crisis say is needed.

Creative fundraising

Many people have made financial donations to help with the response to the crisis.

One fundraiser for fire services in New South Wales (NSW), launched by Australian comedian Celeste Barber, raised more than A$20m (£10.6m; $13m) in just 48 hours. It’s now topped A$30m, with donations from more than 1.1 million people.

Big business in Australia has also pledged significant contributions.

Some of the biggest sums offered to the relief efforts have come from celebrities.

US singer Pink, Australian pop star Kylie Minogue, Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman, British singer Elton John and Australian actor Chris Hemsworth are among those to make major donations.

The Prince of Wales has said he and the Duchess of Cornwall have been “in despair” watching the “appalling horror” unfold.

In a video posted on the Clarence House Twitter account on Tuesday, Prince Charles praised the work of firefighters and hailed the resilience of Australians facing “such impossible and terrifying circumstances”.

Others have taken a more unusual approach.

Australian cricket great Shane Warne was set to raise more than A$300,000 for the Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund by auctioning off his prized “baggy green” Test cap.

British actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge, meanwhile, said she would auction off the suit she wore to the Golden Globes to raise money for relief efforts.

He wasn’t the only tennis player to chip in. Ashleigh Barty, the Australian world number one, said she would donate all her prize money from the Brisbane International – which offers a pot of nearly A$1.5m. Maria Sharapova said on Twitter she would donate A$25,000, and Novak Djokovic later matched the pledge.

And then there’s the California-based Instagram model Kaylen Ward, who claimed to have raised more than half a million dollars by offering nude photos of herself in exchange for proof of charitable donations.

Food and goods

Fire-ravaged communities have also been inundated with donations of toys, food, clothes and furniture. But officials have warned that such generosity can sometimes cause problems.

A spokesman for the state of New South Wales’ Office of Emergency Management (OEM) said the deluge of goods could potentially spark a “second disaster”.

“Unfortunately, what usually happens is local communities become overwhelmed very quickly with donated goods,” Jeremy Hillman told broadcaster ABC, adding that donations can clog up halls used for recovery meetings.

Governor-General of Australia David Hurley speaks to people at a bushfire relief centre in Bairnsdale, East Gippsland, Victoria, 05 January 2020.
Image captionAustralia’s Governor General David Hurley visited a bushfire relief centre in Victoria

Officials said communities in Victoria had the same problem – and that those wanting to help should do so financially, whether through donations or direct spending in affected towns.

“We do not need any more food, we do not need any more clothes. Give money… support the local businesses and the communities,” the state’s Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville was reported as saying.

Thousands of social media users have called on people to travel to fire-affected areas once the blazes are over.

Using the hashtag #GoWithEmptyEskies, referring to portable coolers, they are urging people to spend money on hotels, food, fuel, drink and other supplies to help rebuild local economies in the wake of the crisis.

“Go with empty eskies, empty cars and low fuel… Beyond rebuilding, they need continued and long term support to get back on their feet and your empty esky makes more of a difference than you could ever imagine,” said a Facebook post, which has been shared more than 36,000 times.

Messages of support

Actors Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett used their Golden Globes speeches to highlight Australia’s bushfire crisis and climate change.

“When one country is facing a climate disaster, we are all facing a climate disaster,” Blanchett said.

Many celebrities have posted statements on social media, urging their followers to make donations.

Australian actress Margot Robbie posted an emotional appeal on Instagram, sharing pictures of her childhood to show “how beautiful our country is”.

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