Raging Bushfires Threaten Iconic Australian Tourism Site

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(Newswire.net — December 3, 2019) — 

Bushfires rage on in Australia, with dry, windy conditions igniting 130 fires across New South Wales (NSW). Fires have burned 1.65 million hectares in NSW, killing six people and destroying more than 500 homes.

The bushfire season, which peaks in January and February, has barely begun, but it has already done more damage in NSW than the previous three years combined.

One giant bushfire is now threatening one of the country’s most iconic tourism sites: the Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains.

The site receives more than four million visitors each year, and it’s one of the most popular Sydney day trip ideas. Although the lookout is popular with foreign visitors, it also holds spiritual significance for Australia’s indigenous population.

Thus far, more than 10% of NSW national parks have been burned in bushfires, including 20% of the Blue Mountains. The fire has claimed an estimated 800,000 hectares in NSW national parks – ten times the amount of hectares lost in last year’s bushfire season.

Ecologists say the damaged caused by the fires in Gondwana rainforest is a “global tragedy.”

The Unesco World Heritage Centre has expressed its concerns about the Gondwana fires. The fires have impacted 12 of 28 world heritage reserves.

Until last week, the New England national park and Barrington Tops had not been affected by the fires. However, lightning strikes sparked fires in those areas, directly impacting the biodiversity of these areas.

Many fires, like the Gospers Mountain fire, have been raging out of control for over a month. The national parks of the Blue Mountains are some of the most vulnerable landscapes in the country, especially during droughts.

The fires have also claimed the lives of hundreds of koalas. It’s estimated that this year’s bushfires have killed between 350 and 1,000 koalas.

The fires, which have captured international attention, have attracted an unexpected number of tourists. Despite warnings to evacuate the area, tourists have been spotted at the Three Sisters lookout in the Blue Mountains posing for photos amid thick blankets of smoke.

Other locals were seen taking photos in front of houses doused in pink flame retardant.

The bushfires have caused millions of dollars in damages so far. Insured losses from fire-related claims in Queensland and NSW hit $34.28 million.

In addition to physical and monetary damages, the fires have also caused the worst levels of air pollution ever recorded in NSW. The smoke from widespread fires has caused a spike in hospital visits and created poor visibility for drivers.