Bushfires have burned almost 5 million hectares of land in Australia

At least 24 people have died since the fires began in September. Air quality in the capital Canberra was this weekend rated the worst in the world.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned that the devastating bushfires raging in the country might go on for months.

Morrison announced the creation of a recovery agency to help those who have lost homes and businesses in the fires.

He has faced fierce criticism over the speed of his response to the crisis.

The weekend saw some of the worst days of the crisis so far, with hundreds more properties destroyed. Rural towns and major cities saw red skies, falling ash and smoke that clogged the air.

Conditions eased in Victoria and New South Wales on Sunday after temperatures and wind speeds dropped and some light rain fell. But authorities warned that the danger was far from over.

Prime Minister Morrison on Saturday announced the largest military call-up in the country’s recent history, mobilising up to 3,000 reservists to assist exhausted volunteer firefighters.

Morrison, who cancelled a planned visit to India because of the crisis visited fire-ravaged towns to boost his image after a series of stumbles in handling the country’s bushfire crisis faced severe backlash.

He warned that the fires might burn for many months, and said that the newly-created recovery agency would run for at least two years.

Queen Elizabeth on Sunday said she was “deeply saddened” by the fires, and thanked the emergency services “who put their own lives in danger” to help communities.

On New Year’s Eve, those beaches weren’t white and blue, but rather an “apocalyptic” red, as one resident put it, with about 4,000 people fleeing to them to escape a raging inferno.

Bondi beach in Sydney, have been unswimmable for much of the summer, as the air quality soared to hazardous levels.

Barbecues, another favorite Australian pastime, are banned in many areas, and sporting officials were monitoring the air quality ahead of the ATP Cup tennis tournament and a cricket Test match between Australia and New Zealand in Sydney this week.

Some 5 million hectares of land are burning in nearly 200 fires across the country, with every state and territory affected. More than 1,200 homes have been destroyed and millions of hectares of land scorched.

Tens of thousands of homes in NSW were left without power and thousands of people have been evacuated from coastal towns over the past week.

Ecologists from the University of Sydney believe, over 480 million birds, animals and reptiles have already been lost because of the fires. According to reports over 8,000 koalas, which is approximately 30 percent of the total population in NSW’s mid-North Coast region have been lost to fire.