Thunderstorms are bringing some relief for firefighters battling deadly wildfires across Australia's drought-parched east coast. This comes as authorities have worked to trace the source of the fires, arresting two dozen Australians for potential arson. Meanwhile, as the flames consume tens of thousands of acres, Christians are issuing a call to prayer.
While the rain has brought welcome relief to Australian communities and fire crews battling the country's raging wildfires, the unprecedented devastation continues.
Fires have consumed more than 32,000 square miles. That's nearly the size of Indiana and 80 times bigger than the wildfires that swept through California in 2018.
"While we were fighting the front (of the fire) coming in on the southern side, it came in on the eastern side," said Balmoral resident Justin Kam. "While we were fighting the eastern side, it came in on the western side. So, you don't really have too much of a chance when that happens."
The fires have killed more than two dozen people, including a firefighter who was working to put out unattended campfires.
More than 2,000 homes have been lost, but many businesses have been destroyed, too, adding to the personal and economic impact of the tragedy.
"Those people who may not have lost their homes, but they don't have a place to turn up for work today," said Andrew Colvin, head of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency. "They're not sure how their next paycheck is going to arrive. The cost of this is unprecedented."
Rae Harvey was evacuated by boat after she tried to save her kangaroo sanctuary.
"I didn't think we were going to be saved," said Harvey. "I thought we were going to burn alive. As we were leaving the property the area we were sheltering in was on fire and we could see the property burning and we already knew it was around the back and the sides and if we didn't have that river I'm not even sure if we would be here."
Actor Chris Hemsworth, known for his role as Marvel superhero Thor, is among a growing number of celebrities donating big bucks to help aid the firefighting efforts.
Hemsworth, an Australian who lives in the drought-affected New South Wales town of Byron Bay, said in an Instagram video that he would donate $1 million to help the effort.
Hi everyone. Like you, I want to support the fight against the bushfires here in Australia. My family and I are contributing a million dollars. Hopefully you guys can chip in too. Every penny counts so whatever you can muster up is greatly appreciated. In my bio I’ve added links to support the fire fighters, organisations and charities who are working flat out to provide support and relief during this devastating and challenging time. Beyond appreciative to everyone around the world for their well wishes and donations. It really does make a difference, so dig deep! Love ya.
Astronomer Hugh Ross of "Reasons to Believe," an educational institute that promotes science and faith, explained some of the causes of the wildfires.
"The global mean temperature has risen by 1 degree centigrade since 1950, and in Australia it's actually risen a little faster than that. Maybe combine that higher temperature with an extended drought for Australia's experience, plus the high winds, that explains the devastating destruction of the fires," he explained.
Ross also said the ecological impact is likely to last for years.
"The latest figures 18 million acres destroyed," said Ross. "Over 1 billion animals have been killed. It's going to take decades for that region to recover."
Firefighters in New South Wales were captured on video rejoicing as torrential rains poured over fire ravaged areas.
Meanwhile, Christians across Australia are calling on America and the world to pray.
"Australia needs your prayers America," said Luke Gibbons, a volunteer working in the country. "We need it right now. Because we're seeing some incredible things happen through prayer over the last few weeks and firefighters have said how much they appreciate those prayers as well."
Officials say they won't know the full extent of the damage caused by the wildfires until the flames subside, but they've already committed more than $1 billion to rebuilding.