Monday, July 6, 2020

Hundreds of fires kill at least three people in eastern Australia

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Firefighters managed to take control of the most threatening fires on Saturday, but thousands of evacuees still could not return home.

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A fire hit the Australian town of Bobin, 350 km north of Sydney on November 9. PETER PARKS / AFP

Australian firefighters continued on Saturday (November 9th) to fight a hundred catastrophic bush fires in the east of the country, which have already killed three people and destroyed at least 150 homes and schools. The body of a charred man was found in a car, another in the debris of his house, and a woman succumbed to her burns despite doctors' efforts to save her, local emergency services said. Several people are also missing and 30 others were injured, mostly firefighters.

Thanks to a slight improvement in weather conditions, firefighters managed to control most of the 17 most threatening fires on Saturday, but the danger is still far from being averted and thousands of evacuees still could not return to their homes.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also 250,000 hectares of burnt bush in Australia

In some areas, the population became stuck and was instructed to "Look for shelter because it's too late to leave". Local radios have stopped their programs to explain how to survive a fire in the event of people being stranded in their homes or vehicles. Given the unusual magnitude of the fires, which affect an area of ​​nearly 1,000 km along the east coast from Brisbane to Sydney, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said soldiers could lend their the 1,300 firefighters on site. Hundreds of civilians also volunteered to help their affected neighbors.

Exceptional drought

If Australia is used to bush fires, they have been extremely numerous and early this year. The first occurred in September from northern New South Wales to tropical Queensland. If this start of the season is dramatic, scientists are worried for the next few months. Climate change and adverse weather patterns have resulted in exceptional drought, low humidity, and strong winds that contribute to bush fires.

"We have never had so many fires at the same time and with such a high level of urgency"A fire chief, Shane Fitzsimmons, told ABC Public Television. "We are in a powder keg on almost the entire state, and it only takes a spark to start a fire that can burn for days."said Queensland Fire Chief Mike Wassing.

Premier Scott Morrison, whose government downplayed the threat of climate change, sidestepped questions about its effect: "My only thoughts today are with those who lost their lives and their families. (…) Australia has been fighting ferocious fires for as long as Australia is a nation, and well before. And we will continue to do it. "

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