Harrowing video posted to Twitter shows Royal Australian Air Force pilots navigating through a thick haze of orange smoke that prevented them from completing rescue missions in the bushfire-plagued towns of Mallacoota and Merimbula.
Australia is currently battling its worst bushfire season in history, and over the last few months bushfires have razed over 6.3 million hectares (15.5 million acres) of land nationally as of Saturday. At least 24 people have lost their lives, thousands of homes have been destroyed, and nearly 500 million animals are estimated to have been killed in the flames.
And while bushfires in Australia are very common during the hotter spring and summer months, scientists have said that Australia’s fire season is beginning earlier and becoming more extreme as a result of climate change.
As of Tuesday morning local time, there were over 130 fires burning across the country, the worst of which are burning in the states of New South Wales and Victoria.
Australia’s air force commander, Air Vice-Marshal Joe Iervasi, posted a video of the horrifying conditions that pilots are facing as they attempt rescue missions into towns and areas devastated by the disaster.
“This video shows how heavy smoke from bushfires has prevented some C27J C130J flights from reaching #Mallacoota #Merimbula,” Iervasi wrote, referring to the coastal holiday towns of Mallacoota in Victoria and Merimbula in New South Wales, which have been completed ravaged by the fires.
Australia’s Navy on Friday began evacuating some of the thousands of tourists and residents still trapped in Mallacoota because conditions on land were so dire.
But Iervasi’s video demonstrated that smokey conditions also made it challenging to conduct rescue missions from the air.
“Our people are highly trained professional, but not always able to complete the mission on first try,” he wrote.
On Monday local time, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged a billion bushfire recovery fund, which will assist in rebuilding devastated areas over the next two years.
“This money will go towards supporting small businesses, supporting local councils, providing mental health support, investment in social and economic infrastructure, as well as providing environmental protection and protection for native wildlife, which has been so badly hit by these tragic fires,” Morrison said at a press conference.
Celebrities have also pledged and raised millions of dollars for relief efforts, though rescue missions on the ground remain challenging and dangerous.
Weather conditions have been increasingly hot and dry in some areas, breaking heat records, which exacerbate fire conditions.
Bushfires have also now become so big that they are generating their own weather through pyrocumulonimbus clouds, which create their own thunderstorms that can start more fires. And two major fires burning on either side of the Victoria-New South Wales border are inching closer to one another, which may result in what officials are calling a ‘megablaze‘ that could balloon to 1.2 million acres in size.
Additionally, thick blankets of smoke from nearby fires have filled major cities, including Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra with hazardous air.
“The fires are still burning and they will be burning for months to come,” Morrison told reporters on Monday.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
- LGBT teens are making memes about a future where Mike Pence creates conversion camps amid Trump’s impeachment
- Gwyneth Paltrow’s Netflix show will feature exorcisms, psychic mediums, and psychedelics. Experts are already worried.
- ‘The L Word’ just showed a lesbian ‘throuple’ on TV in one of the first same-sex polyamorous storylines
- What you need to know about hCG, the ‘pregnancy hormone’
- This man’s Mexico trip to keep his American Airlines status is the most dramatic travel story to kick off 2020