2020 Photo Contest, Spot News, Stories, 2nd Prize

Australia’s Bushfire Crisis

Photographer

Matthew Abbott

Panos Pictures, for The New York Times

31 December, 2019

Firefighters attempt to control flames in a burning house, as they threaten nearby properties, in Lake Conjola, New South Wales, Australia.

The annual fire season in Australia began early and was exceptionally severe—following months of record-breaking drought and fanned by strong winds. Far stronger wildfires than usual, mostly battled by volunteer firefighters, raged through New South Wales and Victoria as well as areas in South Australia and Queensland, laying waste to bushland and rainforest and destroying homes. By the end of January 2020, more than 30 people had been killed, 3,000 homes lost, and around 12.6 million hectares of land burned (nearly three times the size of the Netherlands). Wildlife was harshly hit. Local scientists estimated that up to one billion animals perished, and more than 50% of the Gondwana rainforest traversing New South Wales and Queensland was burned. In December, while the intensity and speed at which many bushfires were spreading increased, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison went on holiday to Hawaii, and was prompted to return only after the death of two volunteer firefighters. He continued to champion a pro-fossil-fuel policy and held back from linking the fires to the climate crisis.

About the photographer

Matthew Abbott

Matthew Abbott (1984) is a documentary photographer based in Sydney, recognized for photographing social, cultural and political stories covering contemporary suburban and region...

Technical information

Shutter Speed
1/400
ISO
250
Camera
NIKON D5

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