Two large bushfires in the southeastern region of Australia have reportedly merged into one “mega fire” spanning 1.5 million acres, or 2,300 square miles, and straddling the populous states of New South Wales and Victoria. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the two fires merged in the Snowy Mountains—making just one of the 155 currently burning in New South Wales. The death toll of the brushfires has reportedly risen to 20 individuals, three of them volunteer firefighters. A total of 1,995 homes have been destroyed in the flames thus far, and over 800 have experienced damage. Of the over 150 fires, 50 are reportedly unconfined and three are at emergency levels. On Friday night and Saturday, expected strong winds could worsen firefighting conditions. According to NPR, images from NASA show the smoke from the Australian fires has traveled as far away as Chile.
A climate strike in Sydney on Friday also drew in over 30,000 people, protesting Prime Minister Scott Morrison's reaction to the fires. Morrison has reportedly rejected the link between the fires, which have raged since September, and climate change.