The news coming out of Australia is staggering: As of this writing, 28 people have been killed, more than 2,000 homes destroyed and up to 1 billion animals are at risk due to the country’s raging bushfires, the worst seen in a decade.
In all, 15 million acres have been consumed by the Australia fires since fire season started in July, according to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office, with 100 fires still raging in the states of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia
“It’s heartbreaking to see the devastation caused by the catastrophic bushfires in Australia. The vast land is home to a diverse and resilient people. But right now, Australia needs our support,” said Cyndi Zesk, vice president of travel services at AAA Northeast who’s visited Australia several times. “We want our many travelers, travel partners, colleagues and friends in Australia to know that we are here to help in any way we can.”
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The famous sails of the Sydney Opera House have been lit up in a special tribute tonight. While there have been many people, agencies and groups involved in the firefighting and community effort, there is special recognition for NSW RFS volunteers who have worked so hard to protect communities. #nswrfs #nswfires #bushfires #australia @sydney @sydneyoperahouse
How You Can Help
Several organizations have stepped in to raise funds for the people and animals affected by the fires, including the following.
- The Intrepid Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Intrepid Group, a AAA Northeast partner, is matching up to $200,000 Australian dollars (approximately $139,000 U.S. dollars) in funds for the Australian Red Cross.
- The NSW Rural Fire Service is collecting funds to aid the fire-containing efforts, families of fallen firefighters and the many volunteer firefighters serving on the front lines.
- Australian Red Cross volunteers and emergency teams are housing displaced families in evacuation centers, distributing food and water and providing comfort to those affected by the fires.
- The Salvation Army Australia has deployed emergency services teams to provide meals to evacuees and frontline responders.
- The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital is raising funds to support staff members as they search for and take care of koalas in the Port Macquarie area. So far, 31 koalas have been saved from the Australia fires and brought to the hospital.
- Ellen DeGeneres’ Australia Bushfire Relief fund hopes to raise $5 million to support wildlife relief efforts in Australia.
Traveling to Australia
If you’re visiting Australia soon, you may be able to keep your travel plans – for the most part, the bushfires are contained to the southeastern and southern parts of the country.
“Another great way to support Australia is to keep visiting there – the large majority of the country is unaffected,” Zesk said. “Many spectacular sites – like Victoria’s Great Ocean Road and Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef, as well as most cruise destinations – are free of the fires. And most international airports remain open.”
The U.S. State Department has raised the travel advisory for areas affected by the Australian bushfires to Level 2, warning Americans to “exercise increased caution.” Areas not affected by the fires are at Level 1, which urges travelers to “exercise normal precautions.”
Travelers can also visit Tourism Australia, which shows the country’s most popular tourist destinations and if they are affected by the bushfires.
If any AAA travelers have questions about Australia, whether how to donate or how to visit, please call your agent, AAA Travel at 800-222-7448 or visit AAA.com/Travel.