Two killed as wild­fires ravage Aus­tralia

Evening Times - - THE WORLD TODAY -

TWO vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers have died while bat­tling wild­fires rav­aging Aus­tralia’s most pop­u­lous state. Geoffrey Keaton, 32, and Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, were in a truck con­voy fight­ing blazes south-west of Sydney when a tree fell and caused the ve­hi­cle to roll off the road.

The two men died at the scene while three other fire­fight­ers were in­jured and taken to a hos­pi­tal, where they re­main in a sta­ble con­di­tion.

Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son – who plans to re­turn to Aus­tralia from a fam­ily hol­i­day to­day – said the two fire­fight­ers were “bravely de­fend­ing their com­mu­ni­ties with an un­matched spirit and a ded­i­ca­tion that will for­ever set them apart amongst our most coura­geous Aus­tralians”.

New South Wales de­clared a seven-day state of emer­gency on Thurs­day as around 2000 fire­fight­ers bat­tled 100 wild­fires across the state.

Around three mil­lion hectares of land has burnt na­tion­wide dur­ing a tor­rid past few months, with six peo­ple killed and more than 800 homes de­stroyed.

The an­nual Aus­tralian fire sea­son started early af­ter an un­usu­ally warm and dry win­ter. The Bu­reau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy said Wed­nes­day was the hottest day on record in Aus­tralia with an av­er­age of 41.9 Cel­sius, beat­ing the land­mark set a day ear­lier by one degree.

The sit­u­a­tion has reignited de­bate over whether Aus­tralia’s gov­ern­ment has taken enough ac­tion to tackle the cli­mate cri­sis.

Pro­test­ers on Thurs­day camped out­side Mor­ri­son’s Sydney res­i­dence de­mand­ing ur­gent ac­tion on cli­mate change.

Mor­ri­son con­ceded last week that “cli­mate change along with many other fac­tors” con­trib­uted to the wild­fires.

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