World Australia and New Zealand 11 Jan 2020 Aussie burned in mas ...

Aussie burned in massive inferno caused by wildfires

AP
Published Jan 11, 2020, 3:57 pm IST
Updated Jan 11, 2020, 3:57 pm IST
The fire crisis in Australia has killed at least 26 people, destroyed more than 2,000 homes and scorched an area larger than a US state
Firefighters and members of the army discuss a nearby fire threat at the Burragate, Australia, firehouse. AP photo
 Firefighters and members of the army discuss a nearby fire threat at the Burragate, Australia, firehouse. AP photo

Burragate, Australia: Two wildfires merged to form a massive inferno in southeast Australia on Saturday, near where a man suffered serious burns protecting a home during a night of treacherous conditions during the nation’s unprecedented fire crisis.

Authorities were assessing the damage after firefighters battled flames fanned by strong winds through the night and lightning strikes sparked new blazes in New South Wales and Victoria, Australia’s most populous states. Conditions were milder Saturday and forecast to remain relatively benign for the next week.

 

“In the scheme of things, we did OK last night,” Victorian Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said.

New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters that officials were “extremely relieved” the fires were not been more destructive overnight.

A man suffered burns protecting a home near Tumbarumba in southern New South Wales and was airlifted to a Sydney hospital in serious condition to undergo surgery, Fitzsimmons said.

Several firefighters received minor burns, and one suffered shortness of breath but were not admitted to a hospital, he said.

With no heavy rain expected, the 640,000-hectare ( 1.58 million-acre) blaze t hat formed overnight when two fires joined in the Snowy Mountains region near Tumbarumba close to the Victorian border is expected to burn for weeks, officials said.

The fire crisis in Australia has killed at least 26 people, destroyed more than 2,000 homes and scorched an area larger than the US state of Indiana since September.

It also has brought accusations that Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s conservative government needs to take more action to counter climate change, which experts say worsens the blazes. Thousands of protesters rallied late Friday in Sydney and Melbourne, calling for Morrison to be fired and for Australia to take tougher action on global warming.

The protesters carried placards saying, “We deserve more than your negligence,” “This is ecosystem collapse” and “We can’t breathe,” referring to wildfire smoke that has choked both cities.

Australia is the world’s biggest exporter of coal and liquid natural gas. Australians are also among the worst greenhouse gas emitters per capita.

On Friday, thousands of people in the path of fires fled to evacuation centers, while some chose to ignore evacuation orders and stayed to defend their homes.

Evan Harris, who lives in the New South Wales rural village of Burragate, said police and fire crews told him he should leave his cottage because of the threat,. He told them he wasn’t going anywhere.

Burragate was choked with smoke for several hours Friday and was directly in a fire’s path.

A fire strike team and several members of the Australian Army arrived to try to save properties, and they were prepared to hunker down in a fire station if the flames overran them.

In the end, the winds died down and so did the fire. But crews worry the flames will flare up again during a fire season that could continue for months.

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