Aus­tralian fire­fighter dies bat­tling bush­fire in south

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Syd­ney, Aus­tralia - An Aus­tralian fire­fighter has be­come the lat­est vic­tim of the months-long bush­fire cri­sis, with au­thor­i­ties say­ing Sun­day that the 60 year old man died fight­ing a blaze in the coun­try’s south.

Chris Hard­man, chief fire of­fi­cer at For­est Fire Man­age­ment Vic­to­ria, said a fire­fighter from Parks Vic­to­ria was ‘in­volved in an in­ci­dent while work­ing on a fire in the Omeo area re­sult­ing in a fa­tal­ity’. It is be­lieved he was struck by a tree.

The death raised the toll from Aus­tralia’s bush­fires to at least 27, even as fire­fight­ers took ad­van­tage of cooler con­di­tions to con­duct back­burn­ing and strengthen con­tain­ment lines.

Also on Sun­day, Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son said his gov­ern­ment would con­sider open­ing a com­mis­sion of in­quiry into the

blazes, amid sus­tained crit­i­cism of his han­dling of the cri­sis.

“I think that is what would be nec­es­sary, and I will be tak­ing a pro­posal through Cabi­net to that end,” he told pub­lic broad­caster ABC.

Mor­ri­son ac­knowl­edged a groundswel­l of anger about the cli­mate-fu­elled fires, which have burned an area the size of South Korea and again shrouded Syd­ney in smoke Sun­day.

The Prime Min­is­ter - a staunch sup­porter of fos­sil fuel in­dus­tries - said emis­sions tar­gets would ‘evolve’ but ruled out curb­ing Aus­tralia’s vast ex­ports of coal.

“In the years ahead, we are go­ing to con­tinue to evolve our pol­icy in this area to re­duce emis­sions even fur­ther and we are go­ing to do it with­out a car­bon tax, with­out putting up elec­tric­ity prices and with­out shut­ting down

tra­di­tional in­dus­tries,” he said.

Au­thor­i­ties have warned that while the blazes are set to ease this week, the cri­sis is far from over.

Af­ter a blus­tery night that saw a series of mas­sive in­fer­nos in New South Wales and Vic­to­ria states merge into a mega-blaze four times the size of Greater Lon­don, tem­per­a­tures dropped and rain fell on fire-scarred re­gions on Satur­day.

“Whilst it was a very long and - in parts of New South Wales - dif­fi­cult night, we’re re­lieved this morn­ing that no lives have been lost and no sub­stan­tial prop­erty dam­age,” New South Wales Pre­mier Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian told re­porters on Satur­day.

The milder con­di­tions are ex­pected to last around a week, giv­ing fire­fight­ers time to try to get the fires un­der con­trol.

New South Wales Ru­ral Fire Ser­vice com­mis­sioner Shane Fitzsim­mons de­scribed the con­di­tions as the ‘best seven days we have had with­out a rise of very dan­ger­ous fire rat­ings’.

In a mat­ter of months, the cat­a­strophic bush­fires have killed at least 26 peo­ple, de­stroyed more than 2,000 homes and scorched some 10mn hectares - an area larger than South Korea or Por­tu­gal.

Univer­sity re­searchers es­ti­mate that more than one bil­lion mam­mals, birds and rep­tiles have been killed in the blazes.

De­spite the cool change, au­thor­i­ties warned that the bush­fire sea­son is not yet over, with hun­dreds of fires across sev­eral states still rag­ing.

The head of a fire­fight­ing ‘strike team’ in the vil­lage of Towamba, Nathan Barn­den, told AFP the rain­fall was ‘fan­tas­tic’ but ‘not enough at this stage to put th­ese fires out’.

“We’re go­ing to need hun­dreds of mil­lime­tres over a pe­riod of time to... make fire­fight­ing eas­ier for us,” he said.

In Vic­to­ria state, Pre­mier Daniel An­drews called on com­mu­ni­ties to re­main vig­i­lant and warned that the months-long cri­sis was ‘a long way from over’.

That mes­sage echoed in the town of Mogo, where what re­mains of the main street was still with­out power and the few open busi­nesses were run­ning on gen­er­a­tors.

Lo­cal res­i­dent and fa­ther of two Mark Bucke (49) said the last ten days had ‘been hell, es­pe­cially with kids’. “We didn’t have bread or milk for prob­a­bly four days.”

(AFP)

The sails of the Opera House lit with a series of im­ages to show sup­port for the com­mu­ni­ties af­fected by the bush­fires and to ex­press the grat­i­tude to the emer­gency ser­vices and vol­un­teers, in Syd­ney on Satur­day

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