By Lidia Kelly
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – One in two Australians have donated money to support bushfire relief efforts, a new survey showed over the weekend, with meteorologists warning more hot and dry weather is to return after a heavy rain respite dampened many of the blazes.
The Australian bush has always burned, but this season’s fires, which began early, have in the past four months claimed the lives of 33 people, millions of animals and have charred an area nearly the size of Greece.
With the fires also destroying thousands of homes and inflicting psychological and physical damage to many, Australians have been increasingly coming together to aid one another as the country looks to rebuilding.
Some 53% of Australians have donated to a bushfire appeal during this season, a survey conducted by the fundraising and marketing consultancy More Strategic in partnership with the Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA) showed over the weekend.
Nearly half of the donations went to a collection organised on behalf of a charity, while 14% have donated through Facebook.
Estimates on total money collected vary, as donations keep pouring from Australia and abroad, with some Australian media saying hundreds of millions of dollars have come in so far.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday that he will move a motion of condolence at the parliament’s first sitting in early February.
“These fires have been devastating but through these terrible times we have also witnessed the Australian spirit on display with an outpouring of love, support, courage and generosity,” Morrison said in a statement.
With more than a week of solid rains in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, the three states most affected by the bushfires, the number of blazes has more than halved, but there were still several dozen fires burning, according to fire services.
Meteorologists warned on Monday, however, that the cooler conditions may be over.
“The reprieve may be short lived with a blast of heat likely late this week in some areas,” the Bureau of Meteorology in the New South Wales state said on Twitter.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Marguerita Choy)