Australia extends state of disaster in areas affected by bushfires

UNTV News   •   January 9, 2020   •   487

A handout photo made available by Earth Observatory of a satellite image showing smoke from bushfires engulfing southeastern Australia, 4 January 2020. EFE-EPA HANDOUT/EARTH OBSERVATORY

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

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Australia closes state border for first time in 100 years to halt coronavirus

UNTV News   •   July 6, 2020

The border between Australia’s two most populous states will close from Tuesday (July 7) for an indefinite period, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said on Monday (July 6), following an outbreak of the coronavirus in his state.

The decision marks the first time the border with neighbouring New South Wales (NSW) has been shut in 100 years – officials last blocked movement between the two states in 1919 during the Spanish flu pandemic.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Melbourne, Victoria’s capital, has surged in recent days, prompting authorities to enforce strict social-distancing orders in 30 suburbs and put nine public housing towers into complete lockdown.

The state reported 127 new COVID-19 infections overnight, its biggest one-day spike since the pandemic began. 53 of those were detected from the public housing towers. It also reported one death, the first nationally in more than two weeks, taking the country’s total tally to 105.

Andrews said the decision to close the border, effective from 11.59 p.m. local time on Tuesday, was made jointly with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Victoria’s only other internal border, with South Australia state, is already closed.

Australia has fared better than many countries in the coronavirus pandemic, with just short of 8,500 cases so far, but the Melbourne outbreak has raised alarm bells. The country has reported an average of 109 cases daily over the past week, compared with an average of just 9 cases daily over the first week of June. (Reuters)

(Production: James Redmayne)

Australia considering offering safe haven for Hong Kong residents

UNTV News   •   July 2, 2020

Australia is considering safe haven proposals for Hong Kong residents, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday (July 2), after China imposed a new national security law on the financial hub.

The law punishes crimes of secession, subversion, and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison in Hong Kong, which was guaranteed freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland under a “one country, two systems” formula at its 1997 handover.

China says the law is necessary to tackle secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces following anti-government protests that escalated in June last year and plunged the city into its biggest crisis in decades.

Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said the law will not affect Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms, nor investor interests.

The passage of the law has drawn international condemnation and more than 300 people on Wednesday (July 1) were arrested as protesters took to the streets in defiance of the sweeping security legislation. (Reuters)

(Production: James Redmayne)

Koalas could become extinct in Australian state by 2050 – inquiry

UNTV News   •   June 30, 2020

A year-long parliamentary inquiry announced on Tuesday (June 30) that koalas will become extinct in Australia’s most populous state by 2050 without significant intervention.

The report found that koala populations in New South Wales were on track to become extinct by 2050, prior to the 2019-2020 bushfire season, due to drought and habitat destruction.

However the recent bushfire season, which was one of the worst in Australian history, was particularly lethal to the state’s koala population and had only increased the rate of their extinction, according to the inquiry.

Whilst the committee was unable to determine the exact impact of the fires upon the koala population, it concluded that koala habitats in some parts of the state suffered a loss of up to 81%.

The report outlined 42 recommendations to the state government that could be taken to help revitalize the population. (Reuters)

(Production: Cordelia Hsu)

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