US increases travel warning level

The U.S. State Department upped its travel warning level for Australia on Wednesday in the wake of the bushfires plaguing the commonwealth.

Australia’s travel advisory level increased from a Level 1 (exercise normal precautions) to at a Level 2 (exercise increased caution). Level 3 is “reconsider travel,” while Level 4 is “do not travel.”

“Exercise increased caution in Australia due to natural disaster/bushfires,” the top of the advisory reads. “Some areas have increased risk.” Experts say that human-caused climate change is making the situation worse.

The State Department calls this bushfire season “one of the worst in Australia’s recorded history,” and notes these fires could last through March or April.

A firefighter is shrouded in smoke as he manages a controlled burn near Tomerong, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, in an effort to contain a larger fire nearby.

The bushfires, which have been burning since September, have killed at least 25 people, destroyed 2,000 homes and killed an estimated 500 million animals. In all, about 15 million acres have burned across the country. To put it in perspective, the affected area is roughly the size of West Virginia. 

What should travelers do?

The State Department recommends tourists consider postponing their trips while the natural disaster still poses danger. Authorities in affected locations could order evacuations, pending conditions.

Smoke from the fires is resulting in poor air quality, so areas not affected may still pose a health risk. Travelers should research the air quality of their respective destinations.

Tourists should also check television and radio stations to stay up-to-date on the fires. Visitors already in Australia can dial 000 (triple zero) if they need help from the fire brigade, ambulance service or police.

The advisory breaks down the fire and emergency services by state and territory for those looking for more information.

How to help:Australia’s devastating fires are still burning. Here’s how you can help

In case you missed:U.S. Embassy in Australia: Tourists should leave due to wildfires

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