Australia’s government has promised to pay “whatever it takes” to help communities recover from ongoing wildfires.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Monday an additional $1.4 billion in government aid for recovery efforts. Officials had already promised tens of millions of dollars to help rebuild from the fires.
About 200 wildfires have burned more than 6 million hectares of land in the southern Australian states of New South Wales and Victoria. At least 24 people have been killed. More than 2,000 homes have been destroyed by the fires.
“The fires are still burning. And they’ll be burning for months to come,” Prime Minister Morrison said, in announcing the new aid. He added, “If more is needed and the cost is higher, then more will be provided.”
A truck is burnt out and a house destroyed at Conjola Park, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, after recent wildfires ripped through the community.
The government assistance is to be used to help rebuild towns and repair infrastructure damaged by the fires. Morrison said the military was now attempting to get food, fuel and water to burned-out communities. Engineers were working to reopen roads and resupply evacuation centers.
Officials said dry conditions and strong winds were feeding more than 135 fires burning across New South Wales. The fires hit earlier than usual this year after a severe lack of rain led to Australia’s hottest and driest year on record. Scientists partly blame global warming caused by human activity for creating a high fire danger.
On Monday, rain and cooler temperatures provided a short break to some communities battling the wildfires. But the rain also made it more difficult for fire crews attempting to carry out controlled burning operations.
The latest weather was welcomed in Victoria state. However, emergency officials there noted that at least 20 centimeters of rain would be needed to put out the fires. That is about 20 times the amount of rain that fell during the past day.
Drier conditions and higher temperatures were expected to return to the area later this week.
“We’ve got big fire danger coming our way toward the end of this week,” Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters in Melbourne. “We are by no means out of this. And the next few days, and indeed the next few months, are going to be challenging.”
The wildfires led Australia’s capital, Canberra, to experience the worst air quality of any major city in the world for most of Monday. Officials urged people in the city to remain indoors to avoid the thick smoke covering the area.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Words in This Story
infrastructure – n. the basic equipment and structures (such as roads and bridges) needed for an area to operate
evacuation – n. the act of removing (a person or people) from a dangerous place
challenging – adj. difficult in a way that is usually interesting or enjoyable