Filipinos advised to defer travel to Australia as deadly wildfires continue

Marje Pelayo   •   January 7, 2020   •   449

SYDNEY, Australia – Authorities describe the ravaging wildfire as unprecedented as it has affected huge part of the country, has damaged thousands of homes, and has killed millions of Australia’s beautiful wildlife.

Locals say this is the worst disaster that ever happened in the history of Australia as the fire inferno shows no signs of stopping.

Though hopes are high that the problem will be solved at the soonest possible time, Philippine representatives in Australia are advising Filipinos to defer their travel to the land down under.

“Right now, we are not encouraging them to travel to Australia, but we are hoping that this is just a temporary situation,” appealed Philippine Deputy Consul General to Victoria, Anthony Andap.

“When things settle down, things are restored to normalcy, of course the same opportunities will be present for them,” he added.

The official said there are about 300 Filipinos or about 50 to 100 Filipino families who have already been evacuated from Gippsland, one of the worst-hit areas in Southeastern Australia.

Most of them are permanent residents and Australian citizens.

Andap confirmed that five Filipino families already lost their homes due to the fire.

Rey Clementer, a Filipino working in Wodonga, Victoria, meanwhile, chose to self-evacuate before things worsen.

“Umalis na ako sa Wodonga kasi masyado ng makapal ang usok doon at hinihika na ang asawa ko (We decided to leave Wodonga because the smoke was already getting thicker and my wife was already having asthma attacks),” he said.

“Ang sunog malapit na sa bahay namin at natatakot kaming abutin ng sunog at di kami lalo makaalis, mga 30 minutes na lang. Nakikita na namin yung sunog sa harap ng bahay namin kaya umalis na kami (The fire was already near our house and we feared that should it come closer, it would be difficult for us to leave. It was about 30 minutes near us. The fire was already right in front of our house so we decided to leave),” he added.

Deputy Consul Andap assured that the Philippine Government is ready to assist those who have been affected by the catastrophe.

“(We are committed) of course to ascertain the conditions of our kababayans and see to it that they are safely evacuated,” he said.

“Second that they get the relief operations that they need,” he assured.

The official also confirmed that contingency measures are already in place to help the Filipinos in Australia should the situation gets even worse. – MNP (with reports from Erly Briones)

Roads flooded as heavy rains dampen Australian bushfires

UNTV News   •   February 7, 2020

Vehicles struggled through flooded roads on Friday (February 7) as the biggest rainfall in almost 20 years drenched Australia’s wildfire-ravaged east coast, dousing the blazes and providing welcome relief to farmers battling an extended drought.

The downpour came with its own risks – officials warned of flash floods and landslides across New South Wales (NSW), Australia’s most populous state – but was generally greeted jubilantly after months of devastating bushfires.

The deluge had the effect of calming the number of active fires in NSW by 20 in a single day, a success rate that NSW RFS said it was “over the moon” about.

Around 11.7 million hectares of Australian wilderness have been razed by a series of huge wildfires since September that have also killed 33 people and more than a billion animals. The horrific extended bushfire season has followed a three-year drought across the country. (Reuters)

(Production: Kevin Donnellan, Louisa Naks)

Protocols urged for evacuation of OFWs amid nCoV outbreak

Marje Pelayo   •   January 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday (January 27) consulted with the Department of Health (DOH) on the establishment of health protocols for the evacuation of Filipinos from cities in China affected by novel coronavirus (nCoV) specifically in Wuhan City, the epicenter of the outbreak.

During the meeting, officials discussed potential measures to properly respond to health emergency prompted by the outbreak of nCoV in China and other countries.

Likewise, acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Eduardo Malaya raised the need to formulate further health advisories for Filipinos including DOH hotlines in each Philippine foreign service post in China to which they can call.

Meanwhile, Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje advised Filipinos in virus-affected areas to exercise precaution by avoiding crowded places, using masks and gloves, as well as practicing proper hand washing and hygiene to reduce the risk of nCoV infection.

The DFA said it is continuously reaching out to Filipinos in China through Embassy and Consulate officials.

Meanwhile, the DOH clarified and maintained that there are no reports of any Filipino, here and abroad, affected by nCoV, so far.

Firefighting plane crash kills 3 in Australia

UNTV News   •   January 23, 2020

Workers try to put out a bushfire behind a row of factories near West Queenbeyan, Australia, Jan.23, 2020. EFE-EPA/MICK TSIKAS AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

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

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