Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has sympathised with residents of Oko Baba in Ebute Metta, Lagos Mainland, over the fire incident in the community.
All structures in the community were completely razed in the inferno caused by sparks from electricity cables. The incident occurred last Friday.
Sanwo-Olu, on Sunday, sent a delegation of three cabinet members, led by the Commissioner for Finance, Dr. Rabiu Olowo, to deliver his message of sympathy and to also take stock of the destruction in the community, with the aim to assuage the pain of the affected families.
The Governor’s emissaries arrived at the community at 3:15pm amid tight security. The victims of the inferno trooped out to receive the government officials, pleading with authorities for assistance over property lost to the fire.
Olowo described the incident as “unfortunate”, noting that the Government would reach out and bring relief to victims whose means of livelihood were destroyed.
He said: “We have come here to sympathise with the affected residents the community as directed by Mr. Governor. We are also here to understudy the situation, so that we can know what to do in bringing succour to the victims who lost property and means of livelihood.
“We have just inspected the site of the incident to take stock of the destruction; the situation we witnessed was not very good. We will get to the root cause of the fire incident in order to prevent future occurrence.”
“We will be meeting with the representatives of the victims to understand their wants and what we need to do to bring immediate relief.”
Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Dr. Idris Salako, noted that the destruction was monumental because of the wooden material used in building most of the structures.
He said Government would be considering a complete regeneration of the area. This, he said, will be done in collaboration with the residents, adding that none of the residents would be dislodged from the community.
It was learnt that some aggrieved victims, on Sunday morning, clashed with scavengers who moved to the scene of the fire to pick iron materials.
Some people were injured in the ensuing melee.
The Governor’s delegation sued for peace, while urging the police to maintain peace in the area. The delegation also visited the hospitals where some of the injured residents are receiving treatment.
Some victims relived the incident, recounting how the fire spread quickly from its source to other structures.
A Muslim cleric in the community, Imam Abdulhakeem Thanni, said the incident was the third in three months, describing the tragedy as an “act of God”. He urged the Government to help the residents.
A victim, Sherifat Balogun, said: “The fire started in the morning when most of the residents had left to their places of work. It was from sparks from electric cable after electricity was restored.
Majority of us lost everything to the fire. Even some who were around could only pick a few personal effects, because the fire spread faster than we imagined.”
Other top Government officials in the delegation include Special Adviser on Civic Engagement, Princess Aderemi Adebowale, Chairman of Lagos Mainland Local Government, Mrs. Omolola Essien, and Vice Chairman, Mr. Jubril Emilagba.
Ahead of this Saturday’s governorship election in Kogi state, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state says he is working hard to ensure the second term re-election of Yahaya Bello as governor of the state.
In a statement issued on Sunday by his special Adviser on Media and Communication, Muyiwa Adekeye, El Rufai who is also chairman of the All Progressives Congress(APC) Campaign Council of Kogi state, dismisses the purported rumour being attributed to him that he has backed-out from his role to ensure the victory of Yahaya Bello in the forthcoming poll.
El Rufai said he gives his best to all his assignments, adding that the Kogi election will not be different.
According to the statement, El Rufai along with other members of the campaign council, ‘’will be on the ground in Kogi this week as the APC works for another democratic mandate.
The statement further dismisses the fake quote ascribed to El Rufai as ‘’ a despicable fabrication, concocted and motivated by the desperation of the PDP..’’
‘’The people of Kogi State will make their free choice at the ballot. Therefore, every political actor has a duty to ensure that the voters act on the basis of accurate information, not lies and fake news.,’’ the statement advised.
Adekeye pointed out that ‘’APC will continue to campaign to persuade the people of Kogi State to renew the mandate they gave our party four years ago. That is the focus of the Malam Nasir El-Rufai and the members of APC Campaign Council.’’
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) says no threats of violence will deter it from overrunning Governor Yahaya Bello and his party in all the senatorial zones of the state, including the Kogi Central in the November 16, governorship election.
The party’s position is predicated on reported threats by Yahaya Bello and the APC to unleash violence and disrupt our campaigns in Kogi Central senatorial zone, apparently distressed by the massive support our candidate, Engr. Musa Wada, is enjoying across the state.
In a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP also condemned the violent attack on the state secretariat of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) by thugs and urged the police to bring the perpetrators of such heinous crimes to book.
“As a party, we have on a good authority how Governor Bello and his agents have been threatening the lives of PDP leaders in Kogi Central, all in their failed bid to instill fear on the people and frustrate our campaigns in the area.
“However, the PDP cautions Yahaya Bello and his party to note that nothing will stop our party and the peoples’ candidate, Engr. Musa Wada, from campaigning and consolidating our support in Kogi Central and across the state.
“The people of Kogi state are on the move with the PDP in their readiness to confront and dismantle the machinations of Yahaya Bello and no amount of violence and death threat can change this resolve.
“The PDP calls on the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, and the military hierarchy to note how Gov Bello is turning Kogi state into a theatre of war and making life unsafe in the state.
“Our party draws the attention of security agencies to reports that APC and agents of Governor Yahaya Bello have a training ground for thugs in Kogi Central District, who would be later armed with dangerous weapons to perpetuate violence during the election.
“There are also reports that the APC and agents of Yahaya Bello are sewing fake military, police and Civil Defence uniforms to be used by their thugs to cause mayhem during the election.
“The PDP therefore charges the Inspector General of Police and the military hierarchy to immediately call Yahaya Bello and the APC to order as well as take urgent steps to ensure adequate security to safeguard lives and property in the electioneering time frame of the November 16 election in the state,”the statement read in parts.
Furthermore, the PDP demanded the immediate arrest of the former ADC to Governor Bello, who allegedly refused to leave Kogi state after he has been transferred to Lagos state.
The PDP said its demand is against the backdrop of reports that the former ADC is being used by Yahaya Bello to compromise the security architecture of the state and aid the ruling party to perpetuate violence and all sorts of manipulation in the electoral process.
“Our party urges the IGP to immediately arrest and relocate the said former ADC as the people of Kogi state are ready to confront any irresponsible officer who is working against their interest in this election,” Ologbondiyan said.
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit in the Federal High Court, Abuja “seeking leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Muhammadu Buhari, Senate president Ahmed Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila to disclose details of allocations, disbursement and spending of security votes by the Federal Government, 36 state governors and 774 local governments between 1999 and 2019.”
The suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1369/2019 and filed last Friday followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information requests and “the respondents’ failure to account for some N241.2 billion of public funds allocated, disbursed and spent yearly as security votes, and the corresponding lack of effective protection of the rights to security and welfare, life and physical integrity of millions of Nigerians.”
Others joined as parties in the suit are: Mr Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Ahmed Idris, Accountant General of the Federation and Mr Anthony Ayine, Auditor General for the Federation.
According to SERAP: “Nigerians have the constitutional and international human right to know details of the exact amounts that have been spent as security votes and specific areas and projects covered by the allocations, disbursement and spending. There is overriding public interest in Nigerians having access to these details, and the respondents have legal obligations to facilitate public access to such information.”
SERAP also argued that: “Constitutional provisions requiring governments to ensure the security and welfare of the people are intended to protect the security and safety of citizens and not the security of a few individuals in government. Without transparency and accountability, the mismanagement and corruption in the allocation, disbursement and spending of security votes will continue with devastating consequences.”
The suit filed by SERAP’s lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi read in part: “The respondents have a legal duty to proactively record, keep and disclose information in respect of allocation, disbursement and spending of security votes without waiting for SERAP to request for such information. They are also required to maintain and publish documents containing information relating to the receipt or expenditure of public funds.”
“Public officials receiving and spending security votes ought to come clean with Nigerians on how exactly these public funds are spent. Unless the reliefs sought are granted, Nigerians would continue to see the appropriation of public funds as security votes as a tool for self-enrichment.”
“The suit is seeking to offer governments at all levels an important opportunity to be transparent and accountable with the exercise of their discretionary powers in the allocation, disbursement and spending of security votes. The public interest in the disclosure of these details outweighs any private interest the respondents may be seeking to protect.”
“The right to know allows Nigerians to gain access to information essential to the fight against corruption, which is entirely consistent with the government’s own anti-corruption strategy to encourage citizens’ involvement in the fight against corruption. Access to information on details of security votes will ultimately foster security, sustainable peace, and development of democratic institutions across the country.”
“Public officers are mere custodians of public records. The citizens are entitled to know how their commonwealth is being utilized, managed and administered in a democratic setting, as this positively influences the feeling of belonging in the society.”
“The huge financial resources budgeted for security votes by successive governments have not matched the security realities in the country, especially given the level of insecurity, violence, kidnappings and killings in many parts of the country, which seem to suggest massive political use, mismanagement or stealing of security votes by many governments.”
“As revealed by a 2018 report by Transparency International (TI), most of the funds appropriated as security votes are spent on political activities, mismanaged or simply stolen. It is estimated that security votes add up to over N241.2 billion every year. On top of appropriated security votes, governments also receive millions of dollars yearly as international security assistance.”
SERAP is therefore seeking the following reliefs:
A declaration that the failure of the Respondents to provide the Applicant with specific information on details of the expenditure, non-planned extra-budgetary spending on “Security” (otherwise referred to as ‘Security Votes’) allocated and disbursed to the Federal Government of Nigeria, 36 States of the Federation and 774 local governments in Nigeria for the periods covering between 1999 and 2019 is illegal and constitutes a breach of the Applicant’s rights under the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
An Order of Mandamus directing and/or compelling the Respondents to urgently compile and provide the Applicant with specific information on details of the expenditure, non-planned extra-budgetary spending on “Security” (otherwise referred to as ‘Security Votes’) by the Federal Government of Nigeria, 36 States of the Federation and 774 local governments in Nigeria for the periods covering between 1999 and 2019.
And for such further order(s) this Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.
Fourteen people died and more than two million others spent a night huddled in storm shelters as Cyclone Bulbul smashed into the coasts of India and Bangladesh with fierce gales and torrential rains, officials said Sunday.
The cyclone packed winds of up to 120 kilometres (75 miles) per hour when it hit late Saturday, closing ports and airports in both countries.
Seven people were killed in India’s West Bengal state, the Press Trust of India reported, including two after uprooted trees fell on their homes and another after being struck by falling branches in Kolkata.
An eighth person died under a collapsed wall in nearby Odisha state.
In Bangladesh, six people were killed — five by falling trees — and at least 20 people were injured.
Five others are missing after a fishing trawler sank in squally weather on Meghna river near the southern island of Bhola, district administrator Masud Alam Siddiqui told AFP.
The cyclone also damaged some 4,000 mostly mud and tin-built houses, disaster management secretary Shah Kamal told AFP.
In coastal Khulna, the worst-hit district in Bangladesh, trees swayed violently and were ripped from the ground in the fierce storm, blocking roads and hampering access to the area.
Some low-lying parts of the district were flooded, disaster management minister Enamur Rahman told AFP.
Authorities said the cyclone was weakening as it moved inland.
“It has turned into a deep depression, causing heavy rainfall,” Bangladesh weather bureau deputy chief Ayesha Khatun told AFP.
Bulbul hit the coast at the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest which straddles Bangladesh and India, and is home to endangered species including Bengal tigers and Irrawaddy dolphins.
The mangroves shielded the coast from the storm’s full impact, Khatun said.
‘Trail of destruction’
Some 2.1 million people across Bangladesh were relocated to cyclone shelters.
Troops were sent to coastal districts while tens of thousands of volunteers went door-to-door and used loudspeakers to urge people to evacuate their villages.
“We spent the night with another 400 people,” said Ambia Begum, who arrived at a shelter in the port town of Mongla late Saturday along with her family.
“I am worried about my cattle and the straw roof of my house. I could not bring them here. Allah knows what is happening there,” the 30-year-old mother of three told AFP.
Around 1,500 tourists were stranded on St. Martin’s island off southeastern Bangladesh after boat services were cancelled.
In India, nearly 120,000 people who were evacuated started to return home as the cyclone weakened, authorities said.
“The storm has left a trail of destruction as it’s crossed the coastline of West Bengal,” the state’s Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim said.
Bangladesh’s low-lying coast, home to 30 million people, and India’s east are regularly battered by cyclones.
Hundreds of thousands of people living around the Bay of Bengal have been killed in cyclones in recent decades.
While the frequency and intensity of the storms have increased, partly due to climate change, the death tolls have come down because of faster evacuations and the building of thousands of coastal shelters.
Cyclone Fani was the most powerful storm to hit the area in years when it struck in May, killing 12 people.
The Organization of American States recommended Sunday canceling the first round of the Bolivian elections, held three weeks ago and claimed by the opposition as fraudulent, and holding new elections.
“The first round of the elections held last October 20 must be annulled and the electoral process must begin again, the first round taking place as soon as there are new conditions that give new guarantees for it to take place, including a newly composed electoral body,” the organization said in a press release, as thousands of Bolivians are preparing to enter a fourth week of protests demanding the annulment of the elections and the resignation of President Evo Morales.
“Russia is much more assertive than it was 10 years ago. It’s got some self-confidence now as it reasserts itself as a global power,” Carter told BBC television.
“Cyber is part of that, what happens in space is part of that, disinformation, subversion, manipulation, assassinations, and of course the use of mercenaries, which are very easily undeclared and non-attributable,” he said.
“Reckless behaviour and the lack of respect for international law relating to these new types of ‘weapons’ risks escalation that could easily lead to inadvertent miscalculation,” Carter separately wrote in The Sunday Telegraph.
Russian President Vladimir Putin flatly denies the Kremlin’s involvement in cyber and ground operations that Western intelligence agencies and analysts pin on Moscow.
But Carter said this “deniability” is a tactic now being perfected by Britain’s main foes.
His media appearances are timed to remind Britons of the challenges they still face on Remembrance Sunday — the day the country honours those who fought and died in World War I and subsequent conflicts.
It also comes with US President Donald Trump wavering on Washington’s commitment to the NATO military alliance and French President Emmanuel Macron promoting the idea of a European army.
Britain wants to preserve NATO as it prepares to leave the European Union after nearly 50 years.
“I have seen absolutely no evidence of any military planning to suggest that we are going to have a European army, and no declaration to that end has been made,” Carter told the BBC.
Spain voted Sunday in its fourth general election in as many years amid heightened tensions over the separatist push in Catalonia that has fuelled a surge in support for upstart far-right party Vox.
The repeat polls were called after Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez failed to secure support from other parties following an inconclusive election in April which saw his Socialist party win the most votes, but no working majority in parliament.
Opinion polls however suggest this new election will fail to break the deadlock. Neither the left nor the right look likely to win a ruling majority in Spain’s 350-seat parliament.
The Socialists are on track to finish top again, but with slightly fewer seats than the 123 they picked up in April, while the main opposition conservative Popular Party (PP) may strengthen its parliamentary presence.
But the most striking development could be the rise of the far-right Vox party, which might even jump to third-largest in parliament, according to polling.
Party leaders from across the political spectrum urged Spaniards to head to the polls.
Sanchez told reporters after voting in Madrid that “it is very important that we all participate to strengthen our democracy” and “have the needed stability to be able to form a government”.
The last election produced a near-record 76 percent turnout, which helped Sanchez who had mobilised left-leaning voters to oppose Vox but analysts warn the numbers will likely drop this time, as Spaniards suffer election fatigue.
Voting stations will close at 8:00 pm, with results expected a few hours later.
The election comes as Spain finds itself increasingly polarised by the Catalan crisis, which has deepened in recent weeks.
Less than a month ago, the Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to lengthy jail terms over their role in a failed 2017 independence bid, sparking days of angry street protests in Barcelona and other Catalan cities that sometimes turned violent.
More than 600 people were injured in the protests, which saw demonstrators torching barricades and throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at police.
During a TV election debate PP leader Pablo Casado called for a “real government that will put order in Catalonia”.
But the toughest line against the Catalan separatists has come from Vox leader Santiago Abascal.
“Drastic solutions are needed,” he said during his final campaign rally on Friday night in Madrid.
He then repeated his pledge to end the Catalan crisis by suspending Catalonia’s regional autonomy, banning separatist parties and arresting its regional president, Quim Torra, who has vowed to continue the secession drive.
The crowd responded by chanting “Torra to the dungeon”.
At the rally, Ana Escobedo said she has voted for the PP in the past but was drawn to Vox because of its hard line on Catalonia as well as illegal immigration.
“I think we need to take a heavy hand,” she said.
‘Remain difficult ‘
Vox won 24 seats in parliament in the last election in April, in the first significant showing by a far-right faction since Spain’s return to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.
This time Vox could double that number, polls suggest.
In recent days, Sanchez has repeatedly raised the alarm about Vox’s “aggressive ultra-rightwing” policies, warning the party would drag the country back to the dark days of Franco’s dictatorship.
Spain has been caught in political paralysis since the election of December 2015 when far-left Podemos and business-friendly Ciudadanos entered parliament.
That put an end to decades of dominance of the two main parties, the PP and the Socialists, in the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy.
But there is a risk Sunday’s vote will only prolong the agony.
With no single party able to secure the required 176 seats for a majority, the Socialists are likely to opt for a minority government, ING analyst Steven Trypsteen said.
“Voting intentions appear to have changed since the April election. But these changes will not make it easier to form a government, so the political situation is likely to remain difficult after this weekend’s vote,” he added.
Lionel Messi delivered an incredible dead-ball hat-trick on Saturday to steer Barcelona to a 4-1 victory over Celta Vigo and ease the pressure on his coach Ernesto Valverde.
Messi scored with a penalty and then a pair of sumptuous free-kicks either side of half-time after Lucas Olaza had briefly pulled Celta level with a free-kick of his own at Camp Nou. Sergio Busquets drove home to make sure of the win late on.
A 34th treble in La Liga puts Messi equal with Cristiano Ronaldo, while a much-needed win sends Barca above Real Madrid on goal difference and back to the top of the table at the end of a testing week.
“It is impossible not to depend on Messi, he illuminates everything,” said Valverde. “We depend on him like any team would depend on him. He unlocked the game.”
Madrid had briefly claimed first place after continuing their own goal-surge by hammering Eibar 4-0, a game in which Karim Benzema scored twice and Eden Hazard exploded into life.
But while Madrid appear to be hitting their stride, Barcelona’s momentum had stalled. After losing to Levante and failing to break down Slavia Prague in the Champions League, scrutiny had again turned on Valverde and his future as Barcelona coach.
Barcelona’s disgruntled fans had whistled their team against Slavia in midweek and when Olaza equalised for Celta, that tension and restlessness threatened to return.
Instead, Messi took command, this hat-trick taking his tally to nine goals in seven games, 612 in total for his club.
“Obviously when it’s tight we have the advantage of having the best player in the world and the best free-kick taker in the world,” said Busquets.
Yet his precision from free-kicks is a skill the 32-year-old has worked on and improved in recent years, his conversion rate currently at four goals from his last seven attempts in the league.
The last time a player scored a hat-trick from set-pieces in La Liga was when Messi himself achieved the same feat in 2012 against Espanyol, albeit with two penalties and one free-kick.
There was good news for Barcelona too in the return of Luis Suarez, who came off the bench after recovering from a calf strain.
Messi scored his penalty in the 23rd minute after Joseph Aidoo had blocked Nelson Semedo’s cross with his hand.
It was Messi that conceded the foul for Olaza’s curling free-kick that was well-hit enough to beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen, even if the goalkeeper might have been disappointed not to be able to get across.
There was little Celta keeper Ruben Blanco could do about Messi’s efforts, the first in stoppage time before the interval and the second three minutes after the restart.
They were almost carbon copies of each other, bending over the wall and nestling in the top right-hand corner.
Celta, under their new coach Oscar Garcia, never looked like mounting a comeback and Busquets put the result beyond doubt with a low shot five minutes from the finish.
Real’s players might have been watching on their way home from Ipurua, where they went three up inside 29 minutes, Sergio Ramos scoring a penalty between two Benzema strikes, the second also a spot-kick after Ramos delegated to his teammate. Fede Valverde added a fourth in the second half.
Benzema’s double takes him to 157 goals for Real Madrid, above Ferenc Puskas into sixth in the club’s all-time list, but his excellent display was trumped by a creative masterclass from Hazard.
“His first half was very impressive,” said coach Zinedine Zidane. “We are happy and he will be a huge player for Madrid, for sure.”
Hazard’s vintage performance
Benzema latched onto Hazard’s pass in the 17th minute and after Valverde and Luka Modric missed, the ball spilled back to the Frenchman, who found the corner from an acute angle.
Three minutes later it was two, Hazard the creator again, his feet too quick for Pablo De Blasis, who caught his opponent’s right leg. Ramos slid the penalty home.
Hazard sparkled, with a brilliant nutmeg, a ‘rabona’ cross and too many glides past defenders to count.
Ramos passed on the second Madrid penalty, awarded for a foul on Lucas Vazquez, to allow Benzema to make it three before Valverde had added a fourth, cracking in Modric’s pass for his first goal in La Liga.
Sydney is facing a “catastrophic” fire threat, authorities said on Sunday, as firefighters in eastern Australia raced to prepare for worsening conditions after ferocious bushfires devastated communities.
Fires have killed three people and razed more than 150 homes since Friday, but cooler weather overnight provided a welcome reprieve for firefighters and residents.
Authorities were assessing the damage on Sunday, with more than 100 fires still burning across New South Wales and Queensland, including several blazes that remained out of control.
Wider swathes of the states — including greater Sydney — are now bracing for perilous fire conditions predicted for the coming days, as is Western Australia state.
It is the first time Sydney has been warned of a “catastrophic” fire danger, the highest possible level, since the grading system was introduced in 2009.
Massive fires tore through several towns on Friday and Saturday.
The mayor of Glen Innes, where two people died, said residents were traumatised and still coming to terms with their losses.
“The fire was as high as 20 foot (six metres) and raging with 80 kilometres-an-hour (50 miles-an-hour) winds,” Carol Sparks told national broadcaster ABC.
Five people reported missing have been found, but the unpredictable nature of the disaster means officials have not ruled out the possibility that others could still be missing, NSW Rural Fire Service spokesman Greg Allan told AFP.
In Old Bar, which was spared the worst when the wind changed direction, hectares of bushland had turned charcoal and small pockets of flames continued to smoulder.
Peter McKellar, 75, was clearing debris from his property as his neighbour’s home sat in ruins.
“The firies (firefighters) saved ours,” he told AFP. “They are doing a wonderful job. They’re angels.”
High temperatures, low humidity and strong winds forecast from the middle of the week are predicted to fuel blazes that authorities have warned they will be unable to contain ahead of time.
“We are ramping up for probably another 50 trucks full of crews to be deployed into New South Wales on Monday night ahead of conditions on Tuesday,” NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shan Fitzsimmons told reporters in Taree, one of the worst-hit areas.
“We have seen the gravity of the situation unfold… What we can expect is those sorts of conditions to prevail across a much broader geographic area as we head into Tuesday.”
‘Primed to burn’
In Queensland, where a state of emergency has been declared, more than 1,200 firefighters were battling over 50 active fires on Sunday.
“Queensland does not usually have a fire season like we’ve experienced this year and last year,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters.
With thousands of people forced to flee from their homes, Australia’s government was offering immediate emergency assistance payments of up to Aus$1,000 (US$685) to those affected and extended financial support for anyone unable to work as a result.
Many residents are now returning to their scorched communities to assess the extent of the fire-inflicted damage, amid warnings it could take months for them to rebuild their lives.
Emotions were running high at an evacuation centre in Taree, with one man breaking down in tears as he was embraced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“People are under a lot of pressure,” Morrison told reporters. “The level of optimism, despite the circumstances, is quite inspiring.”
Morrison, whose government has downplayed the threat of climate change, was also heckled about the issue at a fire command centre in nearby Wauchope.
“Climate change is real, can’t you see,” the Australian newspaper reported a man as yelling before he was escorted out of the building.
Bushfires are common in Australia but the country has experienced a dramatic start to what scientists predict will be a tough fire season — with climate change and weather cycles contributing to the dangerous combination of strong winds, high temperatures and dry conditions.
The current disaster has not wreaked the human devastation of Australia’s worst recent bushfires, the Black Saturday fires that killed 173 people in Victoria state in 2009, with some experts attributing that to better early warning systems.
But Ross Bradstock, from the Centre for Environmental Management of Bushfires at the University of Wollongong, described the situation as “unprecedented” for the affected regions, which have rarely — if ever — experienced such severe fires.
“Sadly, given the weather forecast for the coming week, the crisis may worsen and extend southward into landscapes primed to burn via extreme dryness,” he said.
A jubilant Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia led France to its first Fed Cup title since 2003 on Sunday, winning a deciding doubles rubber to crush Australian dreams 3-2.
In the last tournament played under the current format, the pair kept their focus at Perth Arena to overcome Ashleigh Barty and Samantha Stosur 6-4, 6-3, denying the home team their first crown in 45 years.
It was France’s third title and first since they beat the United States 16 years ago, piling more misery on seven-time champions Australia who have now lost all nine of the last Fed Cup finals they have appeared in.
Mladenovic and Garcia, who won the 2016 French Open doubles title, bounced back from going an early break down in the first set to expose Stosur’s weaknesses, with the veteran out-of-sorts and making too many mistakes.
World number one Barty, stunned by Mladenovic in a singles rubber earlier Sunday, did her best to keep Australia in the hunt, but the French pair were clinical, racing to victory as their team-mates went wild.
“I’m the proudest man on the planet right now, I’m so proud of my girls and my team. They deserve it because they fought for a long time for this title,” ecstatic France captain Julien Benneteau said courtside.
“For sure I am going to have a lot of beers now.”
The final marked the last Fed Cup played under the current format, with an overhaul next year seeing 12 nations compete in a six-day event in Budapest.
That will mean an end to home ties and the atmosphere they bring, with the 26,951 fans turning up over two days in Perth the second-highest Fed Cup attendance on record after Roland Garros (30,000) in 2005.
The doubles clash was set up by Ajla Tomljanovic hauling the home team back into the tie by beating France’s Pauline Parmentier 6-4, 7-5.
She came on court after 40th-ranked Mladenovic upset Barty 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/1) in an epic.
Croatian-born Tomljanovic, in her Fed Cup debut for Australia, had been thrashed 6-1, 6-1 by Mladenovic in the opening singles rubber on Saturday.
But captain Alica Molik kept faith with her and she bounced back to beat Parmentier 6-4, 7-5.
“Really glad I got a second chance today and got the win and kept us in,” said the Australian. “The team has been unbelievable all week and it is such a privilege to play for you guys.”
Earlier Barty, who has been in scintillating form, whipping Garcia 6-0, 6-0 on Saturday after winning the WTA Finals in China last weekend, crashed in a classic.
“From my point of view I fought as hard as I could and I hope that I did my team proud and all Australians proud. I fought with everything I had left,” said Barty.
Barty started where she left off after the “double bagel” of Garcia on Saturday, breaking Mladenovic’s first service game with a net volley to extend her streak to 15 games this weekend.
But Mladenovic held serve to end the Barty run and it became a closer affair before the Australian began forcing errors to take the first set.
Barty saved five break points in the opening game of the second set, but Mladenovic finally worked a first crucial break with some quality passing shots, with a forehand long from Barty giving her a 5-4 lead.
She held her nerve to serve out the set.
Mladenovic, who beat Barty on clay in Rome earlier this year, was on a roll with the French star breaking then holding for a 3-1 third-set lead.
Stung, Barty rallied for 3-3 but the errors again crept in and the set ultimately went to a tense tie breaker where Mladenovic triumphed.
“I just kept believing because I felt I was out there fighting and giving her a hard battle. I’m just so proud how I kept pushing and obviously won the game,” said Mladenovic.