Families, firefighters and politicians gathered in a solemn public ceremony in Sydney on Sunday to honor the 25 people killed in recent bushfires that tore through the country’s most populous state.
The bushfires, which lasted from September until torrential rains hit earlier this month, killed 33 people and a billion native animals nationally and destroyed 2,500 homes and a wilderness area the size of South Korea.
The damage was most devastating in New South Wales state. Among the 25 people killed there were 19 civilians, three local volunteer firefighters and three U.S. firefighters.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who thanked those who fought the blazes and honored those who died, spoke of “children kissing the coffins of their fathers” and “mothers who should have never had to bury their children”.
He told the public, gathered around lit candles, of “a summer where the dark sky turned black and sunsets only signaled another night of terror, where the fire crashed on our beaches from the bush that surrounded them”.