1,500 Homes Lost, 23 Deaths, 500 Million Animals Killed: These 75 Images Show the Devastation of Australia’s Bushfires

1,500 Homes Lost, 23 Deaths, 500 Million Animals Killed: These 75 Images Show the Devastation of Australia’s Bushfires

“I hope to still have a house after this weekend.” These are the confronting, painfully real words my friend said to me last night as he evacuated his family to Sydney, with fires closing in around his house from every direction. These images show just how bad it is.

It’s rather surreal for me watching these fires in Australia, because I know so many of the areas being devastated. These bushfires are the worst in Australia’s history, and they have been burning for more than three months, if you can actually believe that. Over five million hectares of land have already been destroyed, along with homes, lives, livestock, and all kinds of animals. To put that in perspective, the entire island of Kyushu, Japan, where I live now, is 3.7 million hectares in total. Miyazaki, my prefecture (state) in Kyushu, is 773,000 hectares. Australia’s entire Defence Force has been deployed to help.

The fire is still raging as of early January and is only predicted to get worse, as February is typically the worst month. As these fires have wreaked havoc across Australia, photographers from the Sydney Morning Herald have captured some amazing images that give you a glimpse into just how catastrophic they have been. What’s most interesting from a photography perspective is that when you look at these images, you don’t care the slightest bit whether they were taken with a DSLR or a mirrorless camera or whether there is a little bit of digital noise or not. These 75 images tell stories, and sometimes, I think we get far too caught up in technical aspects of image quality, when at the heart of things, images will always be about storytelling, in my opinion.

Please take a look and spare a few thoughts for the people down under currently suffering.

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Michael Devaney's picture

Where are the images?

Eric Harlow's picture

Click on the link in the article.

Przemek Lodej's picture

Link right in the article: "As these fires have wreaked havoc across Australia, photographers from the Sydney Morning Herald have captured..."


It's absolutely devastating. This planet is screwed beyond any repair and we still act as if nothing is wrong. Humanity is hopeless.

Erpillar Bendy's picture

Too many people in politics are either idiots or motivated primarily by greed. The health of the planet is not even in their consciousness, let alone something they can address with action.

Motti Bembaron's picture

The number of 500 million just does not register...This is incredible. As for human loses, it could have been MUCH more. Good thing people listen and fled early. I saw a video on how fast the fire approaches and no one could have outrun it.

Flood in the Middle East, devastating fires down under, devastating weather all around.

Ryan Mense's picture

I agree. I was thinking how if the figure moved up 1 million, people would just read it all the same: more than a lot. But really if 1 million animals died over the course of a few months some place else, that would be major news alone. It’s really hard to register when numbers go so unimaginably high.

Daris Fox's picture

It's likely to get even higher, there's what? Potentially two more months of this hell before they can hope for any real relief, and this disaster is on same kind of scale as the 2004 Indian Tsunami, The fact they've been forced to leave dozens of bush fires to range uncontrolled is one way to show the scale of this disaster.

The ash fallout is now affecting other countries like New Zealand.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

It doesn’t register because 500 000 000 animals affected, not killed.

Ryan Mense's picture

If we look at this statement, it’s clear that “affected” and “killed” are used interchangeably by the source of that figure.


“Many of the affected animals are likely to have been killed directly by the fires, with others succumbing later due to the depletion of food and shelter resources and predation from introduced feral cats and red foxes.”

“The true loss of animal life is likely to be much higher than 480 million.”

Iain Stanley's picture

From various reports, they haven’t even taken into account certain types of species that are harder to track/identify....

Nick B's picture

I'm really sad about Mallacoota and the Croajingolong area. That is a stunning forest, full of rare reptiles and birds. It's like my favorite area in Victoria, it's just so well preserved and wild... I hope it'll bounce back, unfortunately the trees are made to withstand a certain number of fires every century, and climate change (or rather WE humans) are making those fires too much frequent for the forest to be able to recover properly.

Nick B's picture

Like I said, they're ok as long as the fires aren't too frequent. But their frequency has increased in the last few decades. Also, not all eucalypts regenerate after a fire, the mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans) doesn't for example. And some forest of South East Australia and Tasmania are almost 100% mountain ash.

Rod Kestel's picture

We have been choking in this smoke while our city has the worst air quality in the world and it's hearbreaking to see vast areas destroyed.
The planet has given us a swift kick up the ar*e. Not like we haven't been warned.

Mike Yamin's picture

Climate change! Climate change! Climate change! Oh wait... Australian police have instead charged 24 people with arson so far.

Nick B's picture

Yeah and clearly those people created the huge heatwave and winds that are making those fires so massive...

Mike Yamin's picture

My mistake! Clearly, we need to put some very smart people in charge of heat and wind.

Motti Bembaron's picture

Not to dispute or argue the reason for those fires, we don't know all the facts yet. However, when it comes to strong winds and heatwaves, fires are actually the reason for that.

Simply put, when a fire starts, even a small one, it creates a low-pressure area that in turn creates winds. Low-pressure areas "suck" in the air from the high-pressure areas and that creates winds.

Fires of these magnitudes can create seriously strong winds. It does nothing to do with climate change, it's just a fact.

Same with the intense heat. The fire consumes the humidity in the air and that creates even more dryness for the fire to feed on.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Eventually the climate change deniers puppet masters will decide how to monetize the heatwaves, floods and ice cap melting and change their tunes "pay us to save the planet"...