Aussie officials race to open roads during brief respite from fires
MELBOURNE/SYDNEY: Australian officials used a respite yesterday from fierce wildfires that have killed 25 people across the country's south-east to reopen blocked roads and evacuate people who have been trapped for days.
A second day of light rain and cool winds brought some relief from heatwave-fuelled blazes that ripped through two states over the weekend, but officials warned the hazardous weather conditions were expected to return later in the week.
More than 8 million ha of land have been destroyed in the current fire season, nearly the size of Austria.
"No one can be complacent. We've got big fire danger coming our way towards the end of this week with hot weather," Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters yesterday.
The authorities redoubled their efforts to provide supplies and repatriate thousands of people who have been trapped by fire lines in coastal towns for several days.
"What we are focusing on here is the human cost and the rebuilding cost for people's lives," Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra as he announced funding of A$2 billion (S$1.87 billion) over two years to the newly formed National Bushfire Recovery Agency.
Mr Morrison said nearly 4,000 cattle and sheep have been killed as a result of the fires.
Mr Dean Linton, a resident of Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains, used the break from an immediate threat to his town to visit his wife and four children who had evacuated to Sydney.
He also used the 870km round trip to pick up a fire-fighting pump and generator to help him protect the family home.
"There's a lot of fuel in that national park; it would only take one lightning strike," Mr Linton told Reuters.
Singapore is deploying two helicopters, based in Australia for training, to assist, reported The Straits Times. Mr Morrison thanked his Singapore counterpart, Mr Lee Hsien Loong.
"Two Singapore Chinooks are preparing to deploy from Northern Australia to East Sale, which is our forward staging point in Victoria for those operations," Mr Morrison said.
The Singapore Red Cross is also pledging $50,000 to help those affected by the fires. - REUTERS