(Canberra) Millions of dead fish have washed ashore in southeastern Australia, a phenomenon caused by flooding and high temperatures, authorities and scientists say.

The New South Wales state Department of Primary Industries said the fish kills coincide with a heatwave that has strained a system already weakened by extreme high-speed flooding conditions. ladder.

The deaths were likely caused by low oxygen levels, which may increase as flooding recedes. The situation has also been aggravated by the fact that fish need more oxygen due to the warmer weather, the department said.

Residents of the town of Menindee in outback Australia have complained of a terrible smell of dead fish.

“We’ve just started cleaning up, and it’s like walking through a dried-up mess where you smell this putrid smell. It’s horrible to see all these dead fish,” said Jan Dening, who lives nearby.

Wildlife photographer Geoff Looney discovered huge piles of dead fish near Menindee’s main spillway Thursday night.

“The stench was terrible. I almost had to put on a mask, Mr. Looney said. I was worried about my own health, this water goes down to our pumping station for the city. People north of Menindee say there’s cod and perch floating all over the river.”

Other mass deaths have been reported on the Darling-Baaka River in recent weeks. Tens of thousands of fish were found at the same location towards the end of February, while several cases of dead fish were reported downstream towards Pooncarie, near the state borders of South Australia and Victoria.

Similar events occurred on the river in Menindee during severe drought conditions in late 2018 and early 2019, where locals reported millions of fish dying.