Millions pledged as celebrities lead Australia bushfire relief aid

CANBERRA (dpa)- Hollywood celebrities, singers and sports stars have led efforts to raise funds for firefighters and bushfire victims in Australia, as the conservative government's response comes under mounting criticism.
World number one tennis player Ashleigh Barty was the latest sports star to join fundraising efforts, pledging to donate all of her Brisbane International prize money. The event, which starts Monday, has a top prize of 250,000 US dollars.

Celeste Barber
Celeste Barber

Celeste Barber, an Australian comedian, has already raised a whopping 16 million US dollars to help the firefighters battle the deadly bushfires in just two days.
"That’s almost twice as much money as [Prime Minister Scott Morrison] allocated for the entire year (and that was after cutting funding to them)," Australian author Clementine Ford said on her Twitter. 
Barber, who became popular after posting celebrity parodies on her Instagram, has 6.4 million followers. She drew pledges from more than half a million people from across the world. 
The fundraising link has been shared by many other celebrities, including singer Lizzo and actors Natalie Portman and Selma Blair. 
"It's terrifying. They are scared. They need your help," Barber wrote on Facebook on Friday with photos of a fire-red sky bearing down on her mother-in-law's New South Wales house. 
A day later, she said her family was being evacuated. 
Oscar-winning Hollywood actress Nicole Kidman also announced she was donating half a million dollars to the firefighters. 
"Our family's support, thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the fires all over Australia," she said on her Instagram. 
US pop star Pink has also pledged half a million US dollars for Australian fire services.
"I am totally devastated watching what is happening in Australia right now with the horrific bushfires," the singer tweeted to her 32 million Twitter followers on Saturday.
"I am pledging a donation of $500,000 directly to the local fire services that are battling so hard on the front lines." 
Last week, Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios sparked the massive fundraising effort after he pledged to donate 200 dollars for every ace he served to the bushfire appeal. 
It was matched later by fellow tennis players John Millman and Alex de Minaur. Other tennis stars like Simona Halep of Romania and Czech Petra Kvitova also joined the cause.
Tennis Australia has announced a "Rally for Relief" exhibition match on Rod Laver Arena on January 15, which will likely feature some of the world's top players. 
In Australia, states and territory governments have been fighting hundreds of massive bushfires but the federal government, led by conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison, has come under heavy criticism for not setting aside enough resources and funding.
On Saturday, he mobilized 3,000 reservists and other defence assets. He also announced 20 million dollars in funding to lease four fire bombers. 
But his critics have said it's too little, too late as the bushfires have already destroyed more than 6 million hectares of land.
Twenty-four people have died since the devastating bushfire season started early this year in September. All six of Australia's states and one territory have been affected.
More than 200 fires continue to burn.

Monday, January 6th 2020

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