Terrifying Photos From Earth and Space Of Australian Wildfires Show Massive Devastation

Wildfires in Australia have claimed lives, devastated homes and burned millions of acres of land, and, as the saying goes, a picture tells a thousand words.

Firefighters in Australia have been battling raging wildfires since September, and on Friday morning, there were blazes burning in every state. Hot temperatures and a long drought are fueling the fires, which threaten entire species of wildlife.

The flames also drove thousands of people from the town of Mallacoota, in Victoria state, stranding them on the beaches. On Thursday evening, air evacuations flew 25 children and elderly citizens out of the town.

With the flames advancing, the Australian Defence Force sent two Navy ships to rescue about 1,100 people on Friday. The MV Sycamore, a training ship, had already rescued 60 evacuees and some pets, according to the ADF.

Over the next five days, military operations will continue to relocate "vulnerable and high-priority" people, assist with moving firefighters and provide humanitarian assistance to remote and isolated communities.

Since the fires began, at least 19 people were killed and dozens missing, according to the BBC. Included in that death toll are firefighters Geoffrey Keaton and Andrew O'Dwyer, who were killed on December 19 when their fire truck hit a fallen tree, the BBC reported.

On Thursday, New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons presented a posthumous medal for bravery to Keaton's son, Harvey Keaton, 19 months, at the firefighter's funeral.

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Crews from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and the Country Fire Authority monitor fires and begin back burns between the towns of Orbost and Lakes Entrance in East Gippsland on January 2 in Australia. Darrian Traynor/Getty
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A firefighter hoses down trees and flying embers on December 31 in an effort to secure nearby houses from bushfires near the town of Nowra in the Australian state of New South Wales. SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty

Another firefighter was killed on Monday when high winds overturned his truck. Along with the loss of human life, the wildfires are expected to affect an estimated 480 million animals, including the killing of about 8,000 koalas.

In December, Cheyne Flanagan, the clinical director of the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, told Parliament members that legislation failed to protect the koala population. The hospital in New South Wales received and treated dozens of koalas that were harmed by the fire, including one named Ellenborough Lewis.

Lewis gained international attention after a woman ventured out into the trees and pulled the koala from an inferno. Unfortunately, the koala hospital had to put him down because he wasn't recovering.

Kangaroos, another Australian icon, are also facing the threat of flames and were filmed fleeing to safety. The potoroo, a hare-size wallaby; the silver-headed antechinus, a shrew-size marsupial; and the regent honeyeater bird—all species with only a few hundred animals left in the population—could be completely eradicated from the country.

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A dehydrated and injured koala receives treatment at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital on November 2 after its rescue from a bushfire that has ravaged an area of more than 4,900 acres. SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty
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A koala named Sharni from Crowdy Bay National Park is treated at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital on November 29 in Port Macquarie, Australia. Nathan Edwards/Getty

Fires have burned more than 4 million hectares, equivalent to 9,884,215 acres or about 7,488,042 football fields. In New South Wales alone, at least 1,365 homes were destroyed and 501 were damaged, according to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

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A view of fire damage on January 3 in Sarsfield, Australia. Darrian Traynor/Getty
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The remains of burned-out buildings are seen along Main Street in the New South Wales town of Cobargo on Wednesday, after bushfires ravaged the town. SEAN DAVEY/AFP/Getty

On Thursday, NASA posted a photo of how the wildfires looked from space and said the situation "continues to be grim."

"These huge and disastrous fires continue to burn ferociously and with abandon, and reports have come out that the fires have actually intensified in the last 12 hours," NASA said.

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A picture from space shows the wildfires burning in Australia. NASA

Although there was a brief reprieve in the severe weather conditions fueling the flames, Australia's Bureau of Meteorology told The Guardian the heat was expected to return on Friday. Showers were expected to hit parts of Australia on Sunday, but Jonathan How, a forecaster at the bureau, told The Guardian they would be "patchy," so it's unclear if the rain would reach the fire sites.

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