High temperatures, winds fan bush fires in Australia
UNTV News • December 30, 2019 • 449
Sydney, Australia – Soaring temperatures and high winds on Monday buffeted bush fires across southern Australia, where a voluntary firefighter died in an accident.
Emergency warnings for out of control fires in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania remain in place while New Year’s Eve firework displays have been canceled in several cities.
The New South Wales Rural Fire Service said a volunteer firefighter died when a truck rolled over in high winds near Jingellic, 70 kilometers east of Albury. The latest fatality brings the number of bush fire-related deaths since July in Australia to 10.
“A further two firefighters on the same truck have suffered burns and are being conveyed to hospital,” the emergency department said in a statement.
There are more than 100 active fires, half of them out of control, in several Australian states, mainly in New South Wales. Blazes are also affecting Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.
Authorities in Victoria have recorded thirty active fires, some very close to the Melbourne metropolitan area.
Extreme temperatures and high winds are driving the flames.
Every Australian state on Monday recorded temperatures above 40C (104F), even the normally temperate Tasmania, which is experiencing the hottest December on record.
The raging fires threaten an abundance of regional flora, including the koala.
Officials in the capital Canberra and other major cities have canceled New Year firework displays while Sydney, the capital of New South Wales and the country’s largest city, has decided to go ahead with its pyrotechnic celebrations.
New South Wales Deputy Premier John Barilaro opposed the decision.
He tweeted: “Sydney’s New Years Eve Fireworks should just be canceled, very easy decision.
“The risk is too high and we must respect our exhausted RFS volunteers. If regional areas have had fireworks banned, then let’s not have two classes of citizens. We’re all in this crisis together.”
His stance follows an online campaign more than 274,000 people had joined by Monday demanding the suspension of shows countrywide and to instead allocate the money used to organize them to support firefighters and victims.
The Sydney municipal government ruled out suspending the show, scheduled to take place on the emblematic port bridge, the budget for which amounts to AUD 5.8 million ($4 million) and is expected to be viewed live by about 1 million people.
Tanya Goldberg, the city’s head of major events said preparations for the show began 15 months ago and that the security budget had been spent, adding that the event’s cancellation would have few benefits for devastated communities.
At least 10 people have died from the fires since July, nine in New South Wales, where 3 million hectares and more than 900 houses have been burned.
The latest bush fire outbreak began just before the onset of the austral summer in December. Authorities have also forecast a shortage of rain until March.
Thousands of residents were urged to evacuate their properties in Victoria.
Bush fires blighted the state in 2009, killing 173 people and injuring hundreds more. EFE-EPA
At least 90 pilot whales are reportedly dead after around 270 whales washed up on a sandbar in the coast of Tasmania in Australia.
Marine rescue teams arrived on Monday (September 21) to save the whales, however, authorities estimated there will be more casualties due to difficulty in getting the whales back to the ocean.
“We’ve got animals spread over a large area and in really challenging locations. We’re going to take the animals with the best chance to start with and the ones that we are able to deal with,” according to Parks and Wildlife Services marine biologist Dr. Kris Carlyon.
Carlyon also reported that authorities began its large scale operation on Tuesday (September 22), however, he said it will still take days. Experts are still investigating the cause of the mass stranding but it might be due to food hunting. AAC (with reports from Nina Bascon)
The Australian government has extended the implementation of international border restrictions for at least three more months until December 17.
This was the decision of the country’s Health Protection Principal Committee given the prevailing global health risk of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Australia closed its borders in March to prevent the entry of COVID-19 in the country.
In July, the Australian government allowed the return of around 4,000 of its citizens and permanent residents.
To date, only those covered by travel exemptions are allowed to leave or enter the country.
Travel exemptions can be processed online through the Australian Border Force but only qualified individuals will be granted.
These included those working in essential industries and businesses, those needing immediate medical treatment outside Australia, unavoidable personal circumstance, compassionate or humanitarian grounds or anything related to national security.
Meanwhile, temporary visa holders need not acquire travel exemptions from authorities as they may leave anytime to be able to return to their home country.
They have to make sure, however, that their country of destination will accept them once they leave Australia.
For list of exempted individuals, travelers may check on the official webpage of the Australian Department of Home Affairs. MNP (with inputs from Danny Delleva)
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