US singer Pink tweets $500K pledge to fight Australia wildfires

'Totally devastated watching what is happening'

SYDNEY — American pop singer Pink says she is donating $500,000 to help fight the deadly wildfires that have ravaged parts of Australia.

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“I am totally devastated watching what is happening in Australia right now with the horrific bushfires,” Pink tweeted Saturday to her 32.2 million Twitter followers. “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.”

Raging since September, the blazes have already burned about 5 million hectares (12.4 million acres) of land and destroyed more than 1,500 homes.

Pink performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas in September 2017. (Photo by John Salangsang/Invision/AP, File)

The death toll in the wildfire crisis is now up to 23 people, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said after calling up about 3,000 reservists to battle the escalating flames. “In recent times, particularly over the course of the balance of this week, we have seen this disaster escalate to an entirely new level."

Video and images shared on social media showed blood-red skies taking over Mallacoota, a coastal town in Victoria where as many as 4,000 residents and tourists were forced to shelter on beaches as the Navy tried to evacuate as many people as possible.

By Saturday evening, 3,600 firefighters were battling blazes across New South Wales state. Power was lost in some areas as fires downed transmission lines, and residents were warned that the worst may be yet to come.

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Smoke from wildfires shrouds a road near Moruya, Australia, on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

"We are now in a position where we are saying to people, 'It's not safe to move, it's not safe to leave these areas,'" state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters. "We are in for a long night and I make no bones about that. We are still yet to hit the worst of it.”

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Morrison said the governor general had signed off on the calling up of reserves “to search and bring every possible capability to bear by deploying army brigades to fire-affected communities.”

Defense Minister Linda Reynolds said it was the first time that reservists had been called up "in this way in living memory and, in fact, I believe for the first time in our nation's history.”