Firefighting plane crash kills 3 in Australia

UNTV News   •   January 23, 2020   •   465

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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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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