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World US sends additional support to Australia to help battle apocalyptic wildfires

19:17  04 january  2020
19:17  04 january  2020 Source:   abcnews.go.com

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Wildfires raged on Saturday in Australia , choking the sky with smoke, forcing thousands to flee and prompting the U . S . to send more fire personnel to help battle the blazes. The country's wildfires began in September and are expected to last for several months as the hot weather continues.

Australians are reeling from the hundreds of devastating fires sweeping through parts of the country. Since October, the wildfires have scorched millions The Red Cross also provides emergency grants to help people cover their immediate needs. There are other ways to help if you cannot donate money.

Slideshow by Photo Services

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Microsoft News US is supporting Microsoft News Australia in its campaign to help respond to the devastating bushfires that are ravaging the country. Together we are raising fundsfor Australian Red Cross, St Vincent De Paul Society and The Salvation Army. These organizations are helping communities across the country. You can help by donating here . For the latest news on this disaster from MSN Australia, visit Bushfire emergency.

Wildfires raged on Saturday in Australia, choking the sky with smoke, forcing thousands to flee and prompting the U.S. to send more fire personnel to help battle the blazes.

The added personnel, nearly two dozen from the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service, "will continue to support Australia with the resources needed during this unprecedented fire situation," according to a statement from U.S. Forest Service Fire Director Shawna Legarza.

The country's wildfires began in September and are expected to last for several months as the hot weather continues.

As of Saturday, the coast in New South Wales was shrouded in bush fires, according to an interactive map from MyFireWatch.

Video by AFP

At points, the flames in Batemans Bay, New South Wales, were so intense that firefighters had to stop battling the wildfires for their own safety.

Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia and Southern Australia have also battled wildfires.

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The additional support from the U.S. is on top of the more than 74 fire personnel from DOI and USFS that have already been deployed, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

"Our focus remains on helping the people of Australia and keeping people safe in these unprecedented conditions," DOI Wildland Fire Deputy Director Craig Leff said in a statement.

Residents have described the scene as apocalyptic.

(MORE: Wildfires rage out of control in Australia, prompting evacuations and rescues )

"The blackness, the darkness, the intensity of it. It's like the apocalypse," Lake Conjola resident Paula told ABC News. "It's like something that you've never experienced before."

Danielle Heron, who has lived in Batemans Bay her entire life, said she and her family decided to evacuate Saturday after seeing black smoke fill the sky.

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  What Caused the Wildfires in Australia? Amid Worst Blazes for a Decade, 24 People Are Charged With Arson New South Wales police say a total of 183 people, including 40 juveniles, face criminal charges linked to the wildfires.Slideshow by photo services

"It's time to go," Heron told ABC News.

"The destruction that it's caused, it's just unbelievable," she added.

In towns a few hours south of Sydney, areas normally buzzing with locals and tourists for the summer holidays and New Years have turned into ghost towns.

Thousands have evacuated from their homes in the wake of the fires and worsening conditions.

High winds of 100 mph were reported in some communities Saturday and temperatures were well over 100 degrees.

Radio reports pleaded with those who didn't evacuate to shelter in place.

The fires, ignited by a prolonged drought and deforestation, have claimed at least 17 lives and destroyed more than 175 homes, according to the Associated Press.

Nationwide, more than 12.35 million acres of land -- about twice the size of Vermont -- have burned and more than 1,400 homes have been destroyed over the past few months, according to the AP.

Wildlife has also suffered immensely, with University of Sydney ecologists estimating that around 480 million animals have been killed. Koalas in the New South Wales' mid-north coast have lost up to 30% of their population, Australia's minister for the environment, Sussan Ley, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"This is the worst event this country has ever seen. Without a doubt, horrific," Cheyne Flanagan, director of Koala Hospital in New South Wales, told ABC News in an interview Thursday.

ABC News' Julia Jacobo, Jennifer Harrison, Anthony Trotter and James Gillings contributed to this report.

What Caused the Wildfires in Australia? Amid Worst Blazes for a Decade, 24 People Are Charged With Arson .
New South Wales police say a total of 183 people, including 40 juveniles, face criminal charges linked to the wildfires.Slideshow by photo services

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