The astronaut pictures reveal the “terrifying scale” of bushfires that have plagued Australia since September 2019. The fires have scorched some 10 million hectares of land, killed at least 27 and as many as one billion animals.
International Space Station (ISS) Commander Luca Parmitano photographed the Australia fires from 250 miles (402km) up in space.
On Monday, January 13, the Italian astronaut snapped a picture of an “immense ash cloud” passing over Australia.
Sharing his photo from the ISS, the astronaut tweeted: “An immense ash cloud covers Australia as we fly towards the sunset.”
The day before, the European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut also tweeted: “ Australia fires: lives, hopes, dreams in ashes.”
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Since the bushfires began to rapidly spread in September 2019, the inferno has affected swathes of the country, with the states of New South Wales suffering the worst damage.
At least 3,000 homes have been destroyed in the state alone and the fires are showing no signs of stopping.
Mr Parmitano’s photos show thick clouds of smoke spewing from the fires and blotting out the view of Australia from space.
The astronaut said: “Talking to my crew mates, we realised that none of us had ever seen fires at such terrifying scale.”
Climate experts fear the Australian fires have been stoked by the effects of global warming and climate change.
Australia has suffered in 2019 the warmest year on record with strong winds and droughts that have fuelled the fires.
Australia fires: lives, hopes, dreams in ashes
Luca Parmitano, International Space Station Commander
Some experts fear rising temperatures will produce more extreme wildfires in the future, not just in Australia, but around the globe.
According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, warm and dry conditions will likely continue until April this year.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who faced criticism over his response to the disaster, was briefed on the forecast.
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Mr Morrison said: “I make this point, that despite the fact that we are seeing some welcome and more relieving conditions in the foreseeable future over the next few days, and at this point, I have not been advised to me the next spike day, as we’ve seen in previous times, that’s not to say one won’t present itself.
“Our focus is very much on not only the significant recovery plans that are being put in place – we will be announcing more of those today after the national security committee in its expanded form meet today – but to stress there are many more months of responses and directly confronting these fires as they continue, whether they are smouldering in places, whether they’ve had welcome rain or are active in many cases around the country.”
In a bid to aid the recovery effort, thousands of pounds of raw vegetables were dropped over New South Wales to help the animals displaced by the fires.
The Australian World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has also called on people to support an international aid fund.
WWF Australia said: “It’s been estimated that around 1.25 billion animals have been killed across Australia to date.
“This includes thousands of koalas and other iconic species such as kangaroos, wallabies, kookaburras, cockatoos and honeyeaters burnt alive, and many thousands more injured and homeless.
“The catastrophic megafires sweeping our country are greatly exacerbating the species extinction crisis we’re already facing. Yet this is just the beginning.”
The conservation group is looking to collect £15.9million (30million AUD) to support the recovery effort.
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