Australian bushfires: Lewis Hamilton, fellow sports stars donate to victims | News | DW | 09.01.2020
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Australian bushfires: Lewis Hamilton, fellow sports stars donate to victims

Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton is pledging $500,000 to help the victims of Australia's bushfire crisis. He's one of dozens of sports stars and celebrities to step up.

British racing driver Lewis Hamilton announced Thursday he was donating $500,000 (€450,000) to "support the animals, wildlife volunteers and rural fire services" affected by Australia's bushfires.

"It breaks my heart to see the devastation the Australian bushfires are causing to people and animals across the country," Hamilton wrote on Twitter. "If you are able to, and you haven't already then you can donate too."

The unprecedented blazes have killed 26 people, destroyed 2,000 properties and burnt through some 8 million hectares (19.8 million acres). An estimated 1 billion animals have also lost their lives.

"My love of animals is no secret and I can't help but grieve for the defenseless animals thought to have died so far, pushing certain species closer to extinction," the six-time F1 world champion said, alongside a video of a koala being rescued from the flames.

Climate change and F1

Scientists say climate change has helped fuel the catastrophic blazes in Australia, where the 2020 F1 season is set to begin in March with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

Read moreSmoke from Australia fires reaches South America

Hamilton has become quite a vocal lobbyist on climate change of late, having gone vegan, launched his own plant-free burger range, and having sold his private jet last summer. Critics, however, point out that his sport isn't exactly known for being eco-friendly.

Despite plans to make F1 carbon neutral by 2030, it's still a sport that involves flying teams around the world to burn fuel on the racetrack.

Watch video 01:54

Australia’s national catastrophe rages on

Hats off to Warne

Meanwhile, former Australian cricketer Shane Warne put his famous baggy green cap up for auction which ended up fetching more than 1 million Australian dollars ($685,000) to aid those affected by the wildfires. The buyer was not named, however.

Legspin bowler Warne played 145 tests and claimed 708 wickets and the proceeds from the sale will go to the Australian Red Cross bushfire appeal.

Warne wrote on social media: "Thank you so much to everyone that placed a bid and a huge thank you/congrats to the successful bidder — you have blown me away with your generosity and this was way beyond my expectations!"

Celebrities send in pledges

Hamilton and Warne are two among dozens of sports stars and celebrities to have made pledges to support firefighting efforts. Fellow F1 driver, Australia's Daniel Ricciardo, has also said he plans to auction his race suit and donate the proceeds to bushfire victims. 

"My thoughts are with everyone who is suffering right now, and yes, it's time for us to act," he said on Instagram.

Read moreClimate change and deforestation increase the global fire risk

Nine Australians in the American NBA basketball league have offered $750,000 in donations to help their home country, while Australian tennis players Ashleigh Barty and Nick Kyrgios, as well as Australia's cricket team, have also pledged money. 

In recent days other prominent Australians have made sizable contributions, including actors Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, Chris Hemsworth and singer Kylie Minogue. Elton John and Pink have also pledged donations.

Australia's bushfire crisis began in September with no obvious end in sight as more hot weather is forecast for the coming days.

nm, jsi/dr (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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