NEW FIRE EVACUATIONS: While flames still ravage part of Australia, residents are forced to leave their homes in the face of the heat that is looming in the country.
“Leave quickly!” … The Australian authorities have, like last week, urged some residents to evacuate as a heatwave approaches which risks further stoking the dramatic forest fires that ravaged large areas in south and east.
The government of the State of Victoria has, in particular, called on certain populations in the East to leave their homes before the temperature increases on Wednesday, while in South Australia, the number of inhabitants of small villages on Kangaroo Island, in the south of Adelaide, were taken to safety.
“Go! Go fast!” Said Victoria State Police Minister Lisa Neville, speaking to people in high-risk areas. “All of the warnings we have issued have only one purpose, to save lives.”
Australia is confronted with forest fires every year in the spring, but this year has been much earlier and more virulent, under the effect, in particular of conditions more favourable to fires due to global warming.
Authorities confirmed the death of a fourth firefighter on Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 26 since the crisis began in September.
A billion dead animals?
More than 2,000 houses burnt to ashes and around 80,000 km went up in smoke across the country, an area equivalent to that of the island of Ireland. Researchers at the University of Sydney have estimated that a billion animals have been killed by fires across the country. This figure includes mammals, birds and reptiles, but not insects or invertebrates.
Last week, the same university estimated that 480 million animals had perished since September in the state of New South Wales alone. The fumes emitted were spotted in Argentina and Brazil, more than 12,000 km on the other side of the Pacific, according to the weather agencies of these countries.
Despite cooler weather and precipitation in parts of the eastern part of the country, dozens of fires are still out of control, as a new heatwave is expected.
The hot year 2019
2019 has been the warmest and driest year since the surveys began. December 18 was the hottest day ever, with a national average of maximum temperatures measured at 41.9 ° C.
Unknown financial cost
The crisis is likely to continue for several more weeks, and it is unclear what the financial cost will be. But the Australian Insurers’ Council has announced that claims for compensation received by the companies have already amounted to 700 million Australian dollars (433 million euros), an amount expected to increase.
Criticized for the slowness of his response since the start of this crisis, but also for his poor record in the fight against global warming, Conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pledged to donate two billion Australian dollars over two years ( 1.2 billion euros) of tax revenue from a national fund for assistance to fire victims.