(ABC NEWS) — The raging fires in Australia have burned over 12.35 million acres of land — with at least 24 people killed and more than 2,000 homes destroyed by the blazes, officials said.
The size of the fires across the country are twice as large as the state of Maryland and bigger than several other states, including Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
A superimposed map of Australia over the United States shows the scale of the regions affected by the massive wildfires that have spread Down Under.
In New South Wales alone, more than 130 fires are still burning, including almost 70 that are not contained.
An estimated 480 million animals have been killed since the start of the bush fire season in September, according to estimates from ecologists at the University of Sydney.
That figure only includes mammals and does not include insects, bats or frogs, according to a statement on the university’s website. “The true loss of animal life is likely to be much higher than 480 million,” the statement said.
“Until the fires subside, the full extent of the damage will remain unknown, Dr. Stuart Blanch, senior manager of Land Clearing and Restoration for WWF-Australia told ABC News in a statement.
“This includes the death of thousands of koalas, along with other iconic species such as kangaroos, wallabies, gliders, kookaburras, cockatoos and honeyeaters,” Blanch said. “Many forests will take decades to recover and the fires are worsening Australia’s extinction crisis.”
Up to 30% of koalas are estimated to have died in fires on the mid-north coast of New South Wales.
The government has committed an additional 2 billion Australian dollars towards the recovery effort, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Monday. The money is in addition to the “government’s emergency and disaster payments, and the financial support for volunteer firefighters.”
“The fires are still burning. And they’ll be burning for months to come,” Morrison said. “And so that’s why I outlined today that this is an initial, an additional, investment of $2 billion. If more is needed and the cost is higher, then more will be provided.”
For the first time in Australia’s history, 3,000 Army, Navy and Air Force reservists have been called up and will be thrown into the battle against the fires, Morrison said.
Firefighters have been brought in from the United States to assist Australian authorities.