Record-breaking high temperatures, strong winds, and years of drought have stirred intense wildfires Down Under, killing at least 20 people, destroying more than 1,300 homes, and scorching over 15 million acres of land. The fires began in September and have spread across 131 regions of Australia. The economic impact on the nation is serious; insurance claims from the fires already total close to £150 million.
The situation is so dire in Mallacoota, a coastal town in the state of Victoria, that about 4,000 people fled to the beach for safety earlier this week. Now, the Australian military is in the process of evacuating 1,000 individuals.
Within a week of the initial fire outbreak last autumn, the Samaritan’s Purse Australia disaster relief team was offering help and support to the communities of Stanthorpe and Beau Desert, Queensland. The work continues.
“We have had a team on the ground for the past three months, helping families affected by the bushfires in Queensland and most recently in New South Wales,” said Dave Ingram, executive director of Samaritan’s Purse Australia/New Zealand. “We’re grateful to all our Samaritan’s Purse volunteers who have undertaken the huge task of assisting homeowners [to] clear properties and to start the journey of rebuilding their lives.”
Dozens of deadly fires keep blazing in the state of New South Wales as of 2 January, making international headlines. This state is Australia’s most densely populated region—home to Sydney, and the emergency has been ongoing there since mid-December. The fires have caused record heat around the suburbs of Sydney, with temperatures reported up to 42 degrees celsius.
Earlier this year, an uncontrollable fire forced residents of Stanthorpe, Queensland, to evacuate their homes. When Diane and Archie Mitchell returned, they found the home they were renovating completely destroyed.
“It was horrendous, frightening, devastating to come home to, but by the same token we tried to stay positive,” Diane said.
The Mitchells were one of four families in Stanthorpe who lost a home. It was completely destroyed along with their vehicles, a shed, tools, furniture, and more.
A team of Samaritan’s Purse staff and volunteers spent two days on the Mitchell’s property clearing wreckage, and sharing God’s love in Jesus’ Name.
“I couldn’t tell you how uplifting it was for us,” Diane said. “My husband went down and joined in…It was really beautiful.”
Diane and Archie also received a Samaritan’s Purse fire recovery kit, which contains personal protective equipment, a shovel, hammer, and other tools. This kit included items the Mitchells had lost in the fire, and aided them in clearing the property and finding salvageable items.
Diane was incredibly grateful for the work of Samaritan’s Purse staff and volunteers. She stated on Facebook: “The wonderful Samaritan’s Purse Australia crew came to our aid to start the clean-up process. Can’t thank these guys enough. We will never forget you.”
Samaritan’s Purse Australia continues to serve as the wildfires burn.
Dan Stephens, their disaster response manager, said, “With so many fires around the country, as soon as our response teams finish in one area, we are immediately moving on to the next community.
“In the aftermath of so much loss…we just want to bring hope and support to families as they begin to see a way forward.”
Executive Director Dave Ingram also added, “Please join us as we pray for the families who have lost so much and for our team as we respond, that we can bring hope amidst this disaster.”