Bushland is seen burnt by fire as rain pools in large puddles at Bilpin, in the Blue Mountains, Australia, January 17, 2020. AAP Image-Dan Himbrechts-via REUTERS

An inquiry on Australian bush firs has heard that an estimated 445 people died and thousands injured, with health costs exceeding 2 billion dollars (1.3 billion US dollars).

Reports showed that between August 2019 and March 2020, bush fires burnt more than 12 million hectares of land.

It also destroyed more than 3,000 homes and killed people across six of the country’s eight states and territories.

Air quality due to smoke from the fire was ”hazardous” in major Australian cities including Sydney and the capital Canberra.

Eighty percent of the Australian population was “adversely affected” by smoke from the blazes, experts told the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, a powerful independent national inquiry examining preparedness for, response to, and recovery from natural disasters, including the recent bush fire.

The 2019-2020 bush fire estimated smoke-related health costs was 2 billion dollars, four times higher than in 2002-2003 when Australia experienced its second most severe season for bush fire smoke.

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