Sydney, Jan 4 (IANS) Hundreds of bushfires continued to rage in Australia on Saturday amid “catastrophic” conditions in the south of the country where two more deaths have been confirmed, taking the total toll to 21.
The two deaths occurred on Kangaroo Island, some 112 km from Adelaide, South Australia, where more than 100,000 hectares have been razed, mostly in Flinders Chase National Park, which is home to 60,000 kangaroos and 50,000 koala bears, reports Efe news.
“This is taking a very heavy toll,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters, adding that more than 1,500 homes lost to fires across the country since September.
“Our condolences to those who continue to suffer and many of those who are left in absolutely disastrous situations as we speak,” he said, and announced the deployment of 3,000 defence force reservists and the HMAS Adelaide navy ship to aid in the evacuation of those affected.
The Prime Minister added that in “the next 24 to 48 hours are going to be incredibly difficult for bushfire conditions”, with temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius and strong winds in the south and southeastern regions of the country, particularly in Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) states.
Around 1,000 people were evacuated from Mallacoota, Victoria – where a state of disaster has been declared – aboard the HMAS Choules and MV Sycamore.
Meanwhile, thousands of others have tried in recent days to flee by road from the Victorian coast, and that of NSW to avoid becoming trapped by the flames.
Both Victoria and NSW have suffered fires that have this week killed 10 people, burned 500 homes and left thousands of people trapped.
On Thursday and Friday, the authorities created firebreaks, evaluated damages and carried out evacuation orders in Victoria where over 50 fires continue to rage and emergency alerts remain active in several areas.
In NSW, at least 60 fires are uncontrolled, one of which is near Sydney and a state of emergency for fires has been declared for the third time since September.
The Prime Minister said that AU$20 million had been allocated to lease four DC-10 water bomber planes, among other aerial measures, and will open military bases to temporarily accommodate those affected.
Morrison’s announcement came after weeks of criticism – some refused to shake hands with him as he visited a fire affected area – over his lack of response on the fires and climate change.