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Haunting photos show massive fish kill after floods wash Australian bushfire ash into river

Click to play video '‘Massive fish kill’ after floods bring Australia bush fire ash into Macleay river' ‘Massive fish kill’ after floods bring Australia bush fire ash into Macleay river
Hundreds of thousands of fish have been killed after ash from the Australian wildfires washed into Macleay River in New South Wales, Australia.

Hundreds of thousands of fish have been suffocated after ash from the Australian wildfires washed into the Macleay River in New South Wales.

Piles of dead fish were seen washed up on the river’s banks and turned over in the body of water, located in Bellbrook.

Local resident Arthur Bain shared photos and video footage of the aftermath of flash flooding that took place on Jan. 11, which brought ash to the river, effectively suffocating the animals.

READ MORE: World’s last ‘dinosaur trees’ rescued from wrath of Australian fires

“Recent rain upriver has brought a significant rise in the river,” he wrote on Facebook. “The downside is that the ash from recent fires has depleted the oxygen and fish are dying, gasping on the riverbank.”

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Photos posted to Bain’s Facebook account show samples of what he says is water taken from the river, which he describes as “thick and sludgy.”

Bain said he counted 200 fish at first around the Bellbrook Bridge, but he figures the number must be much higher now.

“It’d be in the hundreds of thousands,” he told ABC, adding: “It’s pretty devastating if you’re looking at a 60-kilometre stretch of river. It’s left mud and rotten fish, so we’ve got quite a smell issue at the moment.”

Unfortunately, fish kills of this nature aren’t anything new for Australia, a country that sees many wildfires cause this kind of aftermath. The scale is what makes it different this time, Bain said.

“We’ve had fish kills before. It happens after fires, we know that,” he told 7news. “But this has just been on a scale that’s never been seen before.”

Click to play video 'Much-needed rain falls in New South Wales’ bushfire-ravaged communities' Much-needed rain falls in New South Wales’ bushfire-ravaged communities
Much-needed rain falls in New South Wales’ bushfire-ravaged communities

Locals, he said, have responded by pumping oxygen back into the water to try and save fish that are still alive. The unlucky ones were left “gasping and trying to get out of the water with their gills pulsating,” he told the news outlet.

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The New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (DPI) told ABC it has received multiple reports of mass fish deaths because of the ashy runoff.

“DPI fisheries staff have been on high alert for these circumstances since the commencement of the bushfire season,” a spokesperson said. “This can cause rapid drops to oxygen levels in the water.”

Though the immediate crisis is over, the spokesperson added, a lot of damage has been done.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia wildfire experts bound for Australia ‘a little anxious,’ but well-prepared

Australia is currently being hit by severe thunderstorms, bringing much-needed relief to firefighters who’ve been battling the worst blazes the country has seen in decades.

Despite the heavy rainfall, at least 82 fires continue to burn around the country, 30 of which have yet to be contained, according to authorities.

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca

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