Australian 'megablaze' brought under control
There was some good news on Monday as firefighters said they had control over a megablaze near Sydney, but many fires are still burning, and the devastation is widespread.
Exhausted firefighters said they had finally brought Australia's largest "megablaze" under control Monday, as wet weather promised to deliver much-needed respite for countryside ravaged by bushfires.
New South Wales firefighters said they finally had the upper hand in the fight against the vast Gospers Mountain fire on Sydney's northwestern outskirts, which has been burning for almost three months.
Visiting the area on Monday, New South Wales Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said there was a "small area of burning still to complete" but the "containment prognosis looks promising".
The fire seared an area of national park three times the size of Greater London and lit several connected blazes totalling over 800,000 hectares.
As residents and authorities continued to come to grips with the sheer scale of the devastation, the Bureau of Meteorology forecast some firegrounds areas could get up to 50 millimetres (two inches) of rain in the next week, a relief after a prolonged drought.
If that forecast bears out, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service said it would be "all of our Christmas, birthday, engagement, anniversary, wedding and graduation presents rolled into one. Fingers crossed."
Dozens of other fires are yet to be controlled.
The climate-change-fuelled fires have prompted an international outpouring and donations from around the world to help communities and animal populations.
Australia's unique flora and fauna has taken a catastrophic hit, with an estimated one billion animals killed, and countless trees and shrubs burned away.
The country's environment minister Sussan Ley has warned that in some areas, koalas may have to be reclassified as endangered.
The government has earmarked an initial $50 million (US$35 million) to spend on helping with the wildlife recovery.
"This has been an ecological disaster, a disaster that is still unfolding," Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announcing the emergency fund.
This weekend, Sydney will host a charity gig to benefit fire services, the Red Cross and animal welfare organisations.
Headliners include Alice Cooper, Olivia Newton-John and Queen.