Hundreds of wildfires continued to rage in Australia over the weekend. The death toll continues to rise – to 25 at last count – thousands are left homeless, and countless numbers struggle with respiratory ailments and other fire-related health issues.
While conditions slightly improved over the weekend, experts cautioned that hot, dry conditions will continue to spur the blaze onward this week. Authorities, including Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, have cautioned that the fires could continue for months.
While wildfires are a regular part of the weather cycle in Australia – the season begins every summer – the size and severity of the current crop of blazes is seemingly unprecedented, creating long-term consequences for the country’s wildlife, health, and livelihoods.
Aside from the immediate dangers posed by the wildfires themselves, deteriorating air quality can cause or exacerbate a range of health issues, from respiratory distress to heart attacks. Older adults, young children, and those with existing health issues are particularly vulnerable.
Australia doesn’t generally need assistance during a disaster. The current situation, however, is extraordinary.
Direct Relief is coordinating with a number of Australian agencies and organizations – including the Department of Health, the Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning, the Victorian Country Fire Authority, and the Australian Red Cross – to deliver vital supplies.
In particular, the organization is delivering 97,500 N95 masks, which are designed to block minute particles in the air from entering the airways and lungs.
26 pallets containing the masks will leave Direct Relief’s Santa Barbara warehouse today for Australia. The shipment will be transported free-of-charge by Qantas.