Apocalyptic scenes, evacuations, casualties . . .
Skies turned blood red in parts of Australia again on Sunday as enormous bushfires burn on, predominantly in the populous southeastern states of New South Wales and Victoria. At least 25 people have died and thousands of firefighters, including volunteers, are deployed in what many see as a cause with little hope. The Australian Navy has been evacuating residents and vacationers forced to flee coastal communities to seek ‘shelter’ on beaches. Smoke is so bad that the federal emergency management agency shut its office in Canberra, the country’s capital, on Monday, where the air quality index stood at over 340, double the reading in Beijing. The severity and length of Australia’s current bushfire season is unprecedented.
Support and recovery . . .
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday announced a new C$1.8-billion bushfire recovery fund over two years, but there are fears already that the fund will be insufficient to deal with substantial structural losses. Meanwhile, international contributions continue to arrive. In addition to a fourth contingent of firefighters and wildfire experts from Canada that arrived yesterday, the United States and New Zealand have contributed firefighters, with New Zealand and Singapore supplying water bombers.
Government’s response roundly criticized . . .
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s crisis leadership has been roundly criticized, from his decision to vacation in Hawaii with his family as the crisis broke in November, to controversial messaging on the link between climate change and the lengthened bushfire season and its intensity. Morrison’s former rival for the Liberal Party leadership and Australia’s former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, had harsh words for her former colleague: “We should be showing leadership on the issue of climate change . . . we don’t have a national energy policy in this country and a national approach to climate change.”
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Bushfire recovery costs start at $2 billion but Government assistance can't pay the bills
- The Guardian: New Zealand sends troops to help with Australian bushfires as Pacific nations offer support
- New York Times: Australia Is Committing Climate Suicide