There is a video showing the cargo hold of HMAS Choules after it underwent a transformation into a doggy daycare in order to accommodate 135 dogs while their owners had to flee the “apocalyptic” conditions in Australia:
On the 3rd of January, Cassandra Smith along with her husband Nicholas and their 14-month-old Labrador, Lexi, were among a thousand people who were forced to evacuate from Mallacoota, Victoria, aboard the HMAS Choules and taken to Western Port on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula before being transported to the Melbourne Convention Center.
Mallacoota was one of the worst-hit areas by the Victorian bushfires and there are reports of 4,000 people who spent New Year’s Eve trapped on the foreshore while fires raged nearby.
Smith had been annually holidaying with her family in the small town since 2004. She said the coastal town has never experienced such horror. It is reported that 80 homes have been lost in Mallacoota.
Describing the scenes onboard the ship, she explained, “The Navy set up makeshift containers and pallet boards as pens for the dogs. There were 135 dogs, two cats, two birds, and a rabbit – not all in the same area, thankfully.”
She added, “On 30 December the CFA [Country Fire Authority] briefed the community and said if you hear fire sirens, you have to evacuate. We left our campsite and were in boats, wearing long-sleeved cotton shirts and hats to protect ourselves from falling embers.”
She also said, “We also had food for the three dogs between us. On New Year’s Eve morning the sky went black with smoke and then red. We could hear gas bottles exploding and houses burning. People didn’t know what was happening. When the worst of the fire passed, it was like a war zone. There were people walking around with flannels on their faces, wearing ski masks. By midnight, no one was celebrating the new year. We were all exhausted. No one said, ‘Happy New Year!’ Instead, they were all saying, ‘Are you OK, mate?'”
Smith, who suffers from asthma, was taken to Far Saracen Esso Oil ship for treatment on the 2nd of January, along with a group of parents and small children. After, she and her family and pets got transferred to HMAS Choules.
She added, “The stories on the ship were gut-wrenching. So many people had lost their homes and were on a ship to a city they didn’t know.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed at least 24 people had died in the bushfires.
If you’re wondering, there are plenty of ways – both big and small – for us to help. Organizations like The Salvation Army, the Australian Red Cross and Vinnies all have all set up donation methods where your donations will go on to provide food, clothing and other essential items to those affected by the fires.
Foodbank is also taking money in hopes of sending 5,000 food relief baskets to the people affected by the fires in Victoria’s East Gippsland area.
If you are concerned about the wildlife who have been deeply affected by the fires, there are plenty of ways to donate towards protecting and rehabilitating animals.
— Celeste barber (@celestebarber_) January 5, 2020
The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has been an important focal point as the staff has been overwhelmed taking in and treating hundreds of the koalas affected by the fires on the NSW mid-north coast. You can click here in order to donate to them.
The NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) have also been working hard across Australia to try and ensure animals survive and properly recover. In order to donate to them, click here.