• The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has predicted that 350 koalas have died, prompting them to start a fundraiser to help rescue suffering animals. (ABC: Wiriya Sati)
Images of singed koalas circulate on social media as bushfires continue to ravage New South Wales and Queensland.
By
Brooke Fryer

Source:
NITV News
15 Nov 2019 - 9:40 PM  UPDATED 15 Nov 2019 - 9:49 PM

The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has predicted that around 350 koalas have perished in the bushfires, as the human death toll rises to four.

The decimation by fire of the already devastated koala population has prompted the hospital to start a fundraiser to help rescue and rehabilitate koala populations affected by the fires. As of Friday, it had raised over $570,000.

One volunteer, Lyn Booth, told the ABC that many of the animals were dying as a result of dehydration and the money raised would go towards installing emergency drinking stations.

“We expect to have the koalas in here for up to 12 months because they won't be able to be released into their habitat ,because it's non-existent,” she said.

Scientists say that although koalas have evolved to survive bushfires, numbers of the species have declined by 80 per cent between 1995 and 2009 due to urban development and the destruction of natural habitat.

In May, the Australian Koala Foundation estimated there to be "no more than 80,000 koalas in Australia”, a figure that makes the species “functionally extinct”.

Homes lost

The bushfires in the Hastings Valley also continue to take human lives and homes.

On Friday, the Rural Fire Service NSW (RFS) confirmed that over 250 homes had been completely destroyed and about 90 homes damaged in NSW, with the death toll rising to four.   

The RFS said firefighters had managed to save 2,000 structures sitting in direct fire areas, however.

One Port Macquarie resident, Birpai woman Helene Jones, was one of the many people who lost their home.

“I guess we feel very blessed that we were all safe," Ms Jones told NITV News. "There are a lot of people that are worse off than us."

Ms Jones said she was able to save some photo albums and "a couple of hard-drives, but not everything".

Anticipating the worst, Ms Jones said she had sent her children to her parents’ home in Wauchope, while her husband had worked tirelessly to clear bushland immediately surrounding their home. 

“We decided that for safety we would leave the house on Friday morning,” she said.

“My husband stayed behind at the house to do as much chain-sawing and cleaning as he could do… We wanted to make sure we could clear a space around the house.

But by the turn of the afternoon, the fire had swept onto the property.

“Basically the fire took off… my husband got the hell out of there and we think it may have [hit] between three and five o’clock that afternoon,” she said.

Ms Jones said her home was “a beautiful timber cottage with a great outdoor deck” with “lots of orchards” that was now “a complete wipeout”.

However, she said it was the damage to Country and wildlife that brought her to tears.

“I shudder. It hurts me to think about every wombat, every lyrebird, every snake, every little thing,” she said.

“A house can be re-built, but there are trees out there that are hundreds and hundreds of years old.

“This is climate change and people need to take a look and listen to what nature is trying to tell us, because she tells us when she is suffering.”

On Thursday night, the RFS said more than 60 fires were burning with 1,300 firefighters on the ground battling to contain them. 

Severe danger ratings continue to be place in the far north coast of the state, the north coast, the Greater Hunter and the Greater Sydney regions and the Illawarra-Shoalhaven.

So far this year, 370 homes have been lost to bushfires in NSW and much of the state continues to be under a total fire ban.

In Queensland, more than 60 blazers continue to burn with firefighters preparing for a hot and dry weekend.

Evacuation alerts have been handed to residents of Woodgate, Kinkuna Waters, Thornside and Gympie.

Currently, the fires have scorched more than 2.5 million acres across Queensland and NSW.

Earlier this year, the bushfires in the Amazon Jungle in South America burnt around 2,288 acres of forest.

Scientists say the NSW mega fires are linked to climate change. Here's how
A war of words has erupted around Australia's bushfires and climate change. But most scientists say the link is clear.