Australia extends state of disaster in areas affected by bushfires
UNTV News • January 9, 2020 • 273
Sydney, Australia – The state of Victoria in southeastern Australia on Thursday extended the state of disaster due to bushfires and urged the people to evacuate danger zones before the situation became more complicated in the coming days.
The move, which gives more powers to the authorities to take possession of private property and order evacuations, was adopted in the wake of predictions of increase in temperatures to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and strong winds, which could aggravate the around active fires in the state.
“It’s always difficult to predict how challenging the next couple of days will be but with so much fire in the landscape with such a massive fire edge, with hot weather and significant winds, there’s every reason to think we are going to have more fire today and, of course, tomorrow and potentially right into the weekend,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told the media.
The authorities urged the residents of areas falling under the disaster to evacuate, including the Alpine area and the municipality of East Gippsland in southeastern Victoria, where the fires have caused three deaths and burned 244 homes since the New Year.
Other areas of the country were also making adequate preparations against forecasts of the fires worsening in the coming hours.
In Kangaroo Island, Australia’s third-largest island, authorities advised residents of Vivonne Bay to take refuge in designated shelters to protect themselves from fires, which have left two dead and burned 160,000 hectares of land.
In the state of New South Wales, the worst affected, some 2,500 firefighters have been working to contain some 122 fires, half of them out of control.
The state government announced $1 billion Australian dollars ($687 million) for the reconstruction of affected communities, which comes in addition to the AU$2 billion announced earlier this week by the federal government.
The fires have caused a total 26 deaths since September, 20 of them in New South Wales, where 1,870 of the more than 2,000 homes that have burned down across the country are situated.
The fire season began unusually early in spring, in a year that was listed as the hottest and driest in Australia, according to a report by the country’s Bureau of Meteorology.
“Unfortunately the outlook is not indicating a widespread return to wetter than average conditions over drought and fire affected parts of eastern Australia,” said the Bureau’s Manager of Climate Monitoring, Karl Braganza. EFE-EPA
Sydney, Australia – Three people were killed when a water-bombing plane fighting bushfires crashed into a large fireball in Australia on Thursday amid rising temperatures that have further fueled the blazes in the country.
The New South Wales authorities said the C-130 Hercules tanker aircraft went down in the Snowy Monaro area, south of the Australian capital, Canberra, in the afternoon.
“Three people have lost their lives after a large tanker crashed. Our thoughts and prayers and heartfelt condolences go to their families,” New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.
She said the disaster was a “stark and horrible” indication that the fire season in Australia was far from over and the “dangerous work” being undertaken to control the blazes.
NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the contact with the aircraft was lost shortly before 1.30 pm.
“Tragically, there appear to be no survivors as a result of the crash down in the Snowy Monaro area. It has impacted heavily with the ground.
“Initial reports are that there was a large fireball associated with the impact of the plane as it hit the ground,” he said.
Fitzsimmons said there was “no indication at this stage on what caused the accident”.
The victims in the plane crash were not immediately identified but the commissioner said all three aboard were residents of the United States.
Canberra Airport was closed on Thursday after the Australian authorities once again activated its fire alert over rising temperatures, which in some places exceeded 40 degrees Celsius.
The flights arriving in and departing from the country’s ninth busiest airport in terms of the number of passengers were suspended around midday due to a fire raging nearby, the airport said in a statement on social media.
The authorities once again activated its fire alert on Thursday over rising temperatures, which in some places exceeded 40 degrees Celsius.
In the Sydney region, where the mercury reached 41 degrees, it is feared that severe heat conditions, strong winds, and potential storms could aggravate the situation.
Strong winds in the mountains posed an increased risk of fires, said the meteorology bureau of New South Wales, the capital of which is Sydney, and. Some 84 fires, 40 of them uncontrolled, are burning in the region.
“There’s every potential for flare-ups and new ignitions to come out of some of these fire grounds,” Fitzsimmons said.
The authorities in the Australian Capital Territory, which includes Canberra, were also on alert against the danger of fires before temperatures begin to fall again on Friday.
Bushfires, which have been raging since September and which worsened on New Year’s Eve, have claimed 32 lives and affected more than 1 billion animals.
The fires have razed more than 2,500 homes and 180,000 square kilometers (some 69,500 square miles) of land, an area equivalent to the size of Syria.
These fires, which experts say have been more intense this year due to global warming, have emitted so far 400 megatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, an amount equivalent to the country’s average annual emissions, according to the global environment monitoring program Copernicus.
A survey by the Australia Institute published on Thursday found that 57 percent of the people surveyed across the country of 24.6 million inhabitants felt the impact of fires and smoke, while 26 percent experienced health problems as a result.
The report also underlined that about 1.8 million people were unable to work because of the fires, and the loss in productivity was estimated at AU$1.3 billion ($894 million).
“Australia is in the grip of a national climate disaster. The social, economic and medical impacts are vast and only just starting to become clear,” said Tom Swann, a senior researcher at the Australia Institute. EFE-EPA
Sydney, Australia – A dog trained to track down animals has been helping Australian forest guards find koalas in danger amid the huge bushfires razing the land and claiming the lives of millions of animals in the process.
Taylor, a four-year-old English Springer Spaniel, puts her nose to the ground and sniffs around the wooded terrain in order to detect the iconic marsupial native to Australia, which has become one of the main victims of the vicious fires.
Accompanied by her trainer Ryan Tate, the animal stops in her tracks next to trees where she detects the scent of a koala.
The koalas are usually found clinging to a trunk several meters off the ground, and once Taylor has located one the forest guards are able to rescue and move it out of harm’s way.
The white and brown spotted pooch has helped rescue at least 15 koalas in the eastern state of New South Wales since the forest fires broke out in September, razing an area of land larger than the size of Ireland.
“In optimum conditions we have seen her recognize and hone in on a koala from 125 meters away,” Tate, who owns an animal training center, told Efe on Thursday.
The animal has been trained to “prioritize the scent of the live animal and sit as close to it as she can.”
She comes from a litter of dogs who all work “professionally” to find animals, including turtles, lizards and snakes.
The pair is able to cover between 10-35 kilometers of forest each day.
Since September, the bushfires have swept across an area of more than 80,000 square kilometers, claiming the lives of 28 people.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said Thursday that heavy rains that would alleviate the dry climate that fuels the fires were not forecast until March.
According to estimates by protectionist groups, forest fires have killed over 8,000 koalas, a species already classified as “vulnerable” and under threat from drought, diseases and deforestation.
The severity of the forest fires has stoked fears over the disappearance of the koala – whose population stands at around 80,000, according to the NGO Koala Australia Foundation – if the situation continues and the remaining eucalyptus stock is not protected.
Up to 1 billion animals, mainly mammals, birds and reptiles, are estimated to have been affected by the devastating fires, according to Australian ecologists. EFE-EPA
Sydney, Australia – The high air pollution levels recorded in Melbourne on Tuesday as a result of the bushfires raging across Australia were affecting players in the Australian Open.
Serbian tennis player Dalila Jakupovic was forced to retire from her qualifying match at Melbourne Park against Switzerland’s Stefanie Vogele after a coughing fit.
Jakupovic, who requested medical assistance for breathing difficulties during the match, fell to her knees at the end of the second set, after she had won the first set, and needed to be helped off the court.
On Air Visual, a website that tracks air quality across the globe, some parts of Melbourne recorded “hazardous” pollution with levels of particulate matter 2.5 reaching 361, associated with higher risk of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, according to the World Health Organization.
Other tennis players, including Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard and China’s Xiandi You, were also affected by the poor air quality in Melbourne, according to local media reports.
The authorities of the city, which is the capital of the state of Victoria, ordered the closure of outdoor pools and some beaches and canceled horse races, among other measures.
Australia is facing one of the worst bushfires in its history.
Since September, fires in the country have ravaged more than 80,000 square kilometers – an area larger than Ireland – and left 27 people dead, as well as an estimated 1 billion wild animals. EFE-EPA
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