australian bushfires
A helicopter fights a bushfire near Bairnsdale in Victoria's East Gippsland region on December 31st, 2019. Thousands of holidaymakers and locals were forced to flee to beaches in fire-ravaged southeast Australia on New Year's Eve, as blazes ripped through popular tourist areas leaving no escape by land. Image via STATE GOVERNMENT OF VICTORIA / AFP

Apocalyptic Photos from the Frontline of Australia's Bushfires

Red skies, brown smoke, and scorched earth have become the new normal in Australia, as the country faces one of the biggest climate catastrophes it's ever seen.
Gavin Butler
Melbourne, AU

This article originally appeared on VICE Australia.

Australia is on fire. Over the past few months, more than 12 million acres of land have been reduced to scorched earth. At least 24 people have died, seven within the past week, while an estimated 480 million animals are believed to have been killed in the New South Wales bushfires alone. More than 1,500 homes have been destroyed.

Huge swaths of the country are enveloped in smoke and toxic fumes, a shroud that has spread as far as New Zealand, while Canberra, the nation's capital, recently claimed the title of having the worst air quality in the world. In many places the sky is stained a constant shade of blood-red; in others, it is pitch black in the middle of the day. The fire front is driving entire townships toward the coast and onto the beaches, where the Australian Defence Force waits to evacuate them on zodiacs and battleships in what is likely the largest peacetime maritime rescue operation in the country's history.


Beyond the cataloging of these facts and figures, the situation in Australia defies description. The word "apocalyptic" comes constantly to mind. And it's expected to worsen, with authorities warning that the infernos, spurred on by heatwaves and dry winds, could continue for months.

Every day more footage from the frontline reveals the extent of the devastation—of the armageddon and the aftermath—as communities around the country are swept up in one of the biggest climate disasters Australia has ever seen.

australia bushfire

Firefighters tackle a bushfire in thick smoke in the town of Moruya, south of Batemans Bay, in New South Wales on January 4, 2020. Up to 3,000 military reservists were called to tackle Australia's relentless bushfire crisis on January 4, as tens of thousands of residents fled their homes amid catastrophic conditions. PETER PARKS/AFP

australia bushfire

A burnt vehicle is seen on Quinlans street after an overnight bushfire in Quaama in Australia's New South Wales state on January 6, 2020. Reserve troops were deployed to fire-ravaged regions across three Australian states on January 6, after a torrid weekend that turned swathes of land into smoldering, blackened hellscapes. SAEED KHAN/AFP

australia bushfire

Residents defend a property from a bushfire at Hillsville near Taree, 350 kilometers [217 miles] north of Sydney on November 12, 2019. A state of emergency was declared on November 11 and residents in the Sydney area were warned of "catastrophic" fire danger as Australia prepared for a fresh wave of deadly bushfires that have ravaged the drought-stricken east of the country. PETER PARKS/AFP

australia bushfire

An aerial view of the bushfire burns out of control in the Richmond Valley, of the New South Wales on November 26, 2019. Bushfire-prone Australia has experienced a horrific start to its fire season, which scientists say is beginning earlier and becoming more extreme as a result of climate change, which is raising temperatures and sapping moisture from the environment. Saeed KHAN/AFP

australia bushfire

This photo taken on December 7, 2019 shows firefighters conducting back burning measures to secure residential areas from encroaching bushfires at the Mangrove area, some 90-110 kilometers 55-68 miles] north of Sydney. Bushfires are common in the country but scientists say this year's season has come earlier and with more intensity due to a prolonged drought and climatic conditions fueled by global warming. SAEED KHAN/AFP

australia bushfire

This handout photo taken on January 3, 2020 and released by the Royal Australian Navy shows people being evacuated from Mallacoota, Victoria state on a landing craft to MV Sycamore, during bushfire relief efforts. The Australian military on January 3 has begun the seaborne evacuation of hundreds of people trapped in a fire-ringed southeastern town, as the country braced for more catastrophic conditions. Shane CAMERON/ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY/AFP

australia bushfire

Firefighters dose a bushfire in Dargan, some 130 kilometers [80 miles] northwest of Sydney on December 18, 2019. Australia this week experienced its hottest day on record and the heatwave is expected to worsen, exacerbating an already unprecedented bushfire season, authorities said on December 18. SAEED KHAN/AFP

australia bushfire

The sky turns red from smoke of the Snowy Valley bushfire on the outskirts of Cooma on January 4, 2020. Up to 3,000 military reservists were called up to tackle Australia's relentless bushfire crisis on January 4, as tens of thousands of residents fled their homes amid catastrophic conditions. SAEED KHAN/AFP

australia bushfire

Residents watch a large bushfire as seen from Bargo, 150 kilometers [93 miles] southwest of Sydney, on December 19, 2019. A state of emergency was declared in Australia's most populated region on December 19 as an unprecedented heatwave fanned out-of-control bushfires, destroying homes and smothering huge areas with a toxic smoke. Peter PARKS/AFP

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This article originally appeared on VICE AU.