Wildfires destroy 82M hectares of forest worldwide in decade

Wildfires destroy 82M hectares of forest worldwide in decade

2016 worst year in decade, with 9.63M hectares destroyed worldwide, with Australia, Russia, Canada, US topping list of frequent wildfires

By Aynur Seyma Asan

ANKARA (AA) – Around 82 million hectares (about 202 million acres) of forests across the world have been destroyed by wildfires in the last 10 years, with the worst disasters occurring in Australia, Russia, Canada, and the US.

According to data from the Global Forest Watch (GFW), an open-source web application that monitors global forests, 82 million hectares of forest area have burned in the world in the last 10 years, with 2016 being the worst year for burning at 9.63 million hectares (23.8 million acres).

While the largest fires in the last decade have occurred in Australia, Russia, Canada, and the US, interventions are currently underway in Canada, Greece, Algeria, and Italy.

- Worst in Australia, Russia

In the Australian states of New South Wales (NSW), Queensland, Victoria, and South Australia, 479 people lost their lives due to large-scale wildfires that started in September 2019 and lasted nearly six months.

According to a 2020 report published by the Royal Commission on Natural Disaster Regulations, an institution founded in response to the extreme bushfire season of 2019-2020, over 24 million hectares (59.3 million acres) were burnt.

“Many Australians were impacted, directly or indirectly, by the fires. Tragically, 33 people died and extensive smoke coverage across much of eastern Australia may have caused many more deaths.

“Over 3,000 homes were destroyed. Estimates of the national financial impacts are over $10 billion. Nearly three billion animals were killed or displaced and many threatened species and other ecological communities were extensively harmed,” the report added.

These fires in Australia, which lasted about six months, went down in history as the world's largest forest fires in the last 10 years.

According to the British daily The Guardian, the largest forest fires in Russia in the last 10 years were the fires that destroyed more than 18.16 million hectares (44.87 million acres) of forestland in 2021.

These fires surpassed the country's largest wildfire in 2012, which destroyed 18.11 million hectares (44.75 million acres).

- Forest fires continue in Greece, Algeria, Italy, Canada

According to data released by the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC), the wildfires that broke out in May 2023 and are still burning in Canada are already among the largest wildfires of the last 10 years.

In Canada, where approximately 7.6 million hectares (18.78 million acres) of forestland burned during the entire wildfire season from April to September in 1989, more than 10 million hectares (24.71 million acres) of forestland have been destroyed this year, even though the country is still in the middle of the fire season.

While more than 155,000 people in Canada have had to evacuate their homes due to fire and smoke so far this year, the smoke from the fires has reached many cities in the US, particularly New York, and has negatively affected life.

The US, which witnesses wildfires every year, especially in California, experienced the largest wildfire in the last 10 years in 2020.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported that more than 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres) were burned in wildfires in the state during the 2020 fire season.

While on Rhodes Island in Greece, the forest fire that started a week ago, is still spreading uncontrollably.

In a statement, the Greek Climate Ministry said the evacuation of 19,000 people on the night of July 23 was “the largest evacuation operation ever carried out in the country.”

Authorities have increased the risk of fire outbreak to the highest category 5 in the entire eastern part of central and southern Greece, as well as on the islands of Evia and Rhodes.

Meanwhile, the Algerian Interior Ministry announced in a statement that the number of people who lost their lives in forest fires in 11 cities increased to 34. Efforts to put out fires on land and in the air are ongoing, the ministry added.

While in Italy's southern regions, there are also forest fires raging.

On the island of Sicily, the most affected part of the country, 86 fires are being fought.

Four people are reported to have perished as a result of the direct and indirect effects of forest fires that broke out in many locations in the southern regions of the country.

Another 1,500 people in the area have been evacuated due to the forest fires.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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