Wednesday, June 7News That Matters

Oz PM returns home as bushfires create ‘catastrophic’ conditions

Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, has arrived back in the country as bushfires continue to rage, creating “catastrophic” conditions.

After apologising for being on holiday in Hawaii while large areas of New South Wales burned, he was due to visit the fire service’s HQ on Sunday.

As the blazes spread across almost 100,000 acres, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack admitted there “absolutely” needed to be more action on climate change.

Australia declares another wildfire emergency
Image: Fire officials say the conditions are ‘as bad as it gets’

In a news conference, he said there was a “lot of hysteria around climate change”, adding that it was not the “only factor that has caused these fires”.

Speaking in Wagga Wagga, he continued: “There’s been dry lightning strikes; there’s been self-combusting piles of manure. There’s been a lot of arsonists out there.”

But when asked whether he agreed that climate change needed to be tackled, he replied: “Yeah I do, yeah absolutely, I do agree.”

On Thursday, protesters camped outside Mr Morrison’s Sydney home demanding urgent action on global warming.

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Critics allege he is a climate change sceptic, but he admitted earlier this month that it had contributed to the fires.

Experts say the evidence for a link is strong.

“Australian climate scientists are very clear that these hot, dry conditions are becoming more intense and more frequent and that is linked to climate change,” Bob Ward from the Grantham Institute on Climate Change at the LSE told Sky News.

“It’s clear that climate change is making this a more risky situation.”

Firemen prepare as a bushfire approaches homes on the outskirts of the town of Bargo
Image: A bushfire approaches homes on the outskirts of the town of Bargo

Firefighters have been battling more than 100 blazes.

One person was found dead inside a fire zone near Adelaide in South Australia on Saturday, two days after two volunteer firefighters were killed in the country’s most populous state of New South Wales (NSW).

Around three million hectares (11,560 sq miles) of land has been set alight across the country during a harsh bushfire season which has killed nine people and destroyed more than 800 homes.

Fires in NSW were set to worsen as temperatures in western Sydney were forecast to hit 47C (115F) on Saturday while winds of up to 56mph (90kph) were set to fan the flames before leading to a temperature drop in the evening.

“Catastrophic fire conditions are as bad as it gets,” NSW Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

“They are the very worst of conditions. Given we have a landscape with so much active fire burning, you have a recipe for very serious concern and a very dangerous day.”

Roads outside Sydney were closed and authorities asked people to delay travel at the start of the busy Christmas travel period.

A firefighter rushes to contain the spreading inferno
Firefighters struggle to contain Australia blaze

Close to 10,000 emergency personnel were deployed across the state on Saturday – probably the largest number utilised in NSW ever – the state’s minister for police and emergency services David Elliott said.

“They’re there, four days before Christmas, to keep families safe,” he said.

On Thursday, a seven-day state of emergency was declared in NSW for the first time since 2013.

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In South Australia, authorities said 23 firefighters and several police suffered injuries on Friday.

“It is going to be a real scene of devastation, especially for those people in the Adelaide Hills who have been most affected,” South Australia Premier Steven Marshall said.

“We know that in addition to the buildings and vehicles lost there are very significant losses in terms of livestock, animals, crops, vineyards.”

Nearly 10,000 emergency personnel are working across NSW on Saturday
Image: Nearly 10,000 emergency personnel are working across NSW on Saturday

The annual Australian fire season started early after an unusually warm and dry winter.

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