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Millions of dead fish clog up Australian river near remote town

Authorities say ‘millions’ of fish died in the Darling River near the town of Menindee in New South Wales.

Millions of dead and rotting fish have clogged a expanse of river near a remote town in the Australian outback as a scorching heat wave sweeps through the region.

Videos posted to social media showed boats plowing through a blanket of dead fish choking the water, with the surface barely visible below.

On Friday, the New South Wales government said “millions” of fish had died in the Darling River near the small town of Menindee, in the third mass killing in recent history to hit the area.

The incident follows fish kills in the same area in 2018 and 2019, in which up to a million fish died due to poor water flow, poor water quality and sudden temperature changes.

“It’s really horrible, there are dead fish as far as you can see,” Menindee resident Graeme McCrabb told AFP news agency. “It’s surreal to understand,” he said, adding that this year’s fish kills seemed worse than last.

“The impact on the environment is unfathomable.”

Fish populations such as bony herring and carp had soared after recent flooding in the river, according to the state government, but were now dying out in huge numbers as the floodwaters receded.

“These fish kills are related to low oxygen levels in the water (hypoxia) as the floodwaters recede,” the state government said in a statement.

“The region’s current hot weather also exacerbates hypoxia, as warmer water holds less oxygen than cold water and fish require more oxygen at higher temperatures.”

Drought to blame

Earlier fish kills in Menindee – about 12 hours’ drive west of Sydney – were attributed to a lack of water in the river due to prolonged drought and a toxic algal bloom that stretched for more than 40 km (24 mi).

“Unfortunately, this will not be the last,” the NSW government warned in 2019.

State government fisheries spokesman Cameron Lay said it was “confrontational” to see the river choked with dead fish.

Menindee has about 500 inhabitants and has been plagued by drought and floods in recent years.