THE BUSHFIRES which have raged across Australia since late September have now destroyed an area as large as the island of Ireland.
The unprecedented blazes, which have been ongoing for several months and which seem set to continue due to yet another heatwave forecast for later this week, have burned up to eight million hectares of land, according to official figures.
In context, the island of Ireland is approximated to be 8.4 million hectares-- the size of the Republic of Ireland is estimated to be 7 million hectares.
Half a billion animals are believed to have perished since the blazes began.
The Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, has faced severe backlash from the Australian public for failing to change the government's policies regarding climate change in the face of the bushfires.
In a statement yesterday, Mr Morrison announced the launch of a National Bushfire Recovery Agency, which would receive an initial funding of $2 billion to support people affected by the fires.
“It’s a long road ahead and we will be with these communities every step of the way as they rebuild,” he said.
“While the immediate focus for our emergency services and the Australian Defence Force is keeping people safe and defending against the fires hitting so many areas, we also need to be ready to hit the ground in communities where the fire-front has passed to help them rebuild."
The catastrophic fires have so far claimed the lives of 24 people, with two people missing from the state of New South Wales, and have destroyed over 1,500 homes.
An Irish-born firefighter living in Australia made headlines recently when he described how he fought to keep his farm safe by battling the blaze by himself.
Though much of the farmland was destroyed, Roger Park'ss training and expertise helped guide the blaze around his property, ultimately saving it and most of the animals.
"I was able to save my dogs and my cat, most of my chickens and my kids' guinea pigs, which was a relief," he said.
"My son's okay, my family's okay. We're not smiling much but the dark Northern Irish sense of humour comes out now and again."