Celebs donate millions to help Australia wildfire efforts

Smoke from bushfires casts an eerie glow over New South Wales. Photo by Rob Russell from Gosford, NSW, Australia, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Elton John and Chris Hemsworth are among the celebrities donating big bucks for relief efforts as wildfires engulf Australia.

Hemsworth, the Australian actor who plays Thor in the Marvel movie franchise, took to social media Monday to share that he will donate $1 million and asked his millions of followers to show support as well. He said that “every penny counts.”

So far, the wildfires have scorched an area twice the size of the U.S. state of Maryland. The blazes have killed 25 people and destroyed 2,000 homes. The fires, fueled by drought and the country’s hottest and driest year on record, have been raging since September, months earlier than is typical for Australia’s annual wildfire season.

John announced during his Farewell Yellow Brick Road concert in Sydney, Australia, that he will also donate $1 million. The singer said he wanted to bring attention to the devastation that wildfires have caused, saying it has reached a “biblical scale.” In addition to 23 confirmed human casualties, the fires have claimed the lives of an estimated one billion animals.

Hemsworth and John join a growing list of celebrities who have pledged to donate toward relief efforts, including Nicole Kidman, Pink and Keith Urban.

“I am totally devastated watching what is happening in Australia right now with the horrific bushfires,” Pink wrote in a recent social media post. “I am pledging a donation of $500,000 directly to the local fire services that are battling so hard on the frontlines. My heart goes out to our friends and family in Oz.”

Metallica announced a donation on Tuesday night of $750,000 to a firefighting agency and emergency services agency in Victoria.

On January 9, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Earth Alliance environmental organization announced its plans to donate $3 million toward the effort. Earth Alliance was launched last year to combat climate change and biodiversity loss. Oscar winner DiCaprio serves as the foundation’s co-chair together with philanthropists Laurene Powell Jobs and Brian Sheth. The foundation also donated millions to help the wildfires that ravaged the Amazon rainforest last year.

Actress Rose Byrne, who is Australian, spoke emotionally about the crisis and relief efforts at the New York premiere of her movie “Like a Boss.”

“Really what people need is just donations because it’s all volunteer based, the firefighters and all the rural services and the wildlife services trying to rescue the animals,” she told The Associated Press.

At the January 5 Golden Globes, Phoebe Waller-Bridge said she would auction off her Globe outfit and have the proceeds go to firefighter relief.

LTBMU Fire Captain Dave Soldavini comforts a baby kangaroo, known as a “joey,” that was rescued from the catastrophic wildfires in Australia, January 2020. Forest Service photo

She added: “It’s devastating. It’s such a beautiful country. There’s always drought but this is the hottest year on record and they need rain, but a lot of rain, not just a little bit, which is what’s happening now. They need like a downpour, and it’s just getting hotter and it’s getting more and more out of control. It’s a climate crisis is what it is.”

Australian-born Formula One race car driver Daniel Ricciardo previously announced through social media that he plans to autograph and auction off his racing suit from this year’s Australian Grand Prix to benefit firefighting efforts. Also, the BBC reports that British Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has pledged the equivalent of Aus$500,000 to the cause.

Russell Crowe wasn’t at the Globes to accept his trophy for best actor in a limited series or TV movie for playing former Fox CEO Roger Ailes in the Showtime miniseries “The Loudest Voice.” Instead, the actor was in Australia trying to protect his home from the wildfires, sending a speech that Jennifer Aniston read.

“Make no mistake, the tragedy unfolding in Australia is climate change-based,” Crowe’s statement said. “We need to act based on science, move our global workforce to renewable energy and respect our planet for the unique and amazing place it is. That way, we all have a future.”

Among the many organizations accepting donations are:

Australian Red Cross

Salvation Army Disaster Appeal

Emergency funds for wildlife affected by the fires are being accepted through: NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service, known as WIRES; and Port Macquarie Koala Hospital’s GoFundMe page.

___

Writer Jill Dobson, and Catherine Saunders-Watson, Auction Central News International, contributed to this report from New York.

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This information may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.