British bushfire volunteers ‘restoring a bit of hope’ for heartbroken locals

British volunteers involved in the Australian bushfires recovery effort have told of the hope and heartbreak they have seen as they help piece together broken lives.

Photographer Carrie Hill, 43, and former Royal Navy officer Phil McRae, 51, have put in many hours of graft deep in the Adelaide Hills.

The infernos may have subsided but the intense struggle continues for many of the people who have been affected, including those whose homes have been reduced to rubble.

Sleeping on camper beds in a community hall in Lobethal Bushland Park, the British duo rise early and head in different teams to communities ravaged by fires. Phil said: “It’s the most ful­­filling thing I’ve ever done.”

They are volunteers with disaster response charity Team Rubicon UK. Carrie, also an industrial abseiler, said: “Sometimes you go to a property where everything’s gone.

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“They have metal roofs here and there’s just a crumpled pile of rubble where their house and all their belongings once were.”

Carrie, of Kingsteignton, Devon, added: “It’s not only the physical act of trying to help them move and clear the land, it’s about considering the people themselves and being there for them.”

Talking about a destroyed home, dad-of-two Phil, from Corsley, Wilts, said: “When we finished clearing it, all that was left was a half-metre tall brick perimeter.

“We met the owner’s close friend – to listen to what had happened was so harrowing.

"When the owner came and saw what we had done, you could see in his eyes it had restored a bit of hope.

“To hear his story and understand what he’d gone through – he’d lost his property and his livelihood – it was a privilege to be able to help.”

More than 27 million acres have burnt in the fires which have killed at least 33 people.

Last month a British rescuer revealed she kept a harrowing diary of efforts to save animals amid Australia’s desperate bushfire crisis.

Charity worker Georgie Dolphin joined teams scouring blackened woodland for injured, starving ­creatures to bring to safety.

In one gruelling 14-hour day alone they found 13 koalas, a wallaby, a kangaroo and a possum and took them to an emergency centre.

Georgie, 45, was spurred into ­action as the world watched in horror while the worst-ever bushfires Down Under killed at least 28 people and an estimated billion animals.

The mum of one was particularly shocked by images of dead animals and torched properties on South Australia’s huge Kangaroo Island, which has been likened to Noah’s Ark for its unique range of wildlife.

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