Bushfire Smoke Hits Australian Open Again

Firefighters tackle a bushfire in thick smoke in the town of Moruya, south of Batemans Bay, in New South Wales on January 4, 2020.  PETER PARKS / AFP

 

Bushfire smoke disrupted the Australian Open build-up Wednesday for a second straight day to deepen concerns about the fate of the year’s first tennis Grand Slam, but a cool change late in the day raised hopes of rain soaking the blazes.

The toxic haze that descended on Melbourne, where the Australian Open is due to begin next week, drifted down from out-of-control fires that have endured for months in eastern and southern Australia.

The bushfires, unprecedented in their duration and intensity, have claimed 28 lives while raising awareness about the type of disasters that scientists say the world will increasingly face due to global warming.

In Melbourne, a picturesque bayside city famed as one of the most liveable in the world, the bushfire smoke raised pollution levels to “hazardous” at the start of the week.

The bleak conditions continued on Wednesday, with residents donning face masks while dozens of flights were cancelled at Melbourne airport because of poor visibility.

Australian Open organisers pushed ahead with qualifying rounds on Tuesday.

But dramatic scenes of players dropping to their knees and choking, and one retiring due to the smoke, led to complaints about them being forced to stay out on court.

With the air still tasting and smelling of smoke on Wednesday morning, organisers suspended qualifying rounds until 1:00 pm (0200 GMT) on Wednesday.

Racing Victoria also cancelled two horse race meetings on Wednesday.

With the pollution levels improving slightly, Australian Open organisers restarted play on Wednesday afternoon under better but still hazy conditions.

 Rain hopes 

Thundery weather then swept in late on Wednesday afternoon, bringing heavy rain that forced play to be cancelled for the day but raised expectations of clearer air for Thursday.

There were also hopes that the rain would extend to other parts of southern and eastern Australia where dozens of fires are still raging out of control and threatening to devastate many more rural towns.

Some bushfire and drought-hit areas could see 50-100 millimetres (2-4 inches) of rain, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

However it said the “hit and miss” nature of thunderstorms meant it was difficult to predict exactly where the heaviest rain would fall.

The fires have already destroyed more than 2,000 homes and burnt 10 million hectares (100,000 square kilometres) of land — an area larger than South Korea or Portugal.

The confirmed death toll rose to 28 on Wednesday when authorities said they had confirmed a firefighter who died in late November in a traffic incident had at the time been trying to contain a blaze.

The fires have dominated headlines around the world and led to an international outpouring of aid for victims, as well as animals that have been injured in the blazes.

About one billion animals may have died in the fires and driven many species closer to extinction, according to environmental groups.

Australia’s koala population has taken an “extraordinary hit” and could be listed as endangered for the first time, Environment Minister Sussan Ley has said.

 Tennis disruptions 

In Melbourne, the smoke has raised the prospect of interruptions and delays for the two-week Australian Open, which is due to begin on Monday.

Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic was forced to retire while leading in her qualifying match on Tuesday because of the smoke.

“I was really scared that I would collapse,” she said.

Other players, including world number five Elina Svitolina, hit out at organisers for allowing qualifying to go ahead on Tuesday.

“Why do we need to wait for something bad to happen to do an action,” she tweeted.

 Climate change debate 

Meanwhile, a debate about the attitudes of Australia’s political and media establishment to climate change continued on Wednesday with a rare intervention from one of Rupert Murdoch’s sons.

James Murdoch hit out at his father’s media empire, which includes the News Corp group that dominates Australia’s press landscape as well as Fox News in the US, for climate change “denial”.

“They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary,” said a statement from James and his wife, Kathryn.

AFP

Over 5,000 Camels Killed In Australia Amid Fire Troubles

A car makes its way through thick fog mixed with bushfire smoke in the Ruined Castle area of the Blue Mountains, some 75 kilometres from Sydney, on January 11, 2020. SAEED KHAN / AFP

 

Helicopter-borne marksmen killed more than 5,000 camels in a five-day cull of feral herds that were threatening indigenous communities in drought-stricken areas of southern Australia, officials said Tuesday.

Aboriginal leaders in South Australia state said extremely large herds of the non-native camels had been driven towards rural communities by drought and extreme heat, threatening scarce food and drinking water, damaging infrastructure, and creating a dangerous hazard for drivers.

The cull in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands — home to about 2,300 indigenous people in the arid northwest of South Australia — ended on Sunday, said APY general manager Richard King.

“We appreciate the concerns of animal rights activists, but there is significant misinformation about the realities of life for non-native feral animals, in what is among the most arid and remote places on Earth,” King said in a statement on Tuesday.

“As custodians of the land, we need to deal with an introduced pest in a way that protects valuable water supplies for communities and puts the lives of everyone, including our young children, the elderly, and native flora and fauna first.”

King said weakened camels frequently became stuck and died in water holes, contaminating water sources needed by locals and native animals and birds.

“The prolonged dry period, while not difficult for native wildlife, leads to extreme distress for feral camels,” he said.

APY officials said the operation had removed more than 5,000 camels.

The cull came as Australia experienced its hottest and driest year on record in 2019, with the severe drought causing some towns to run out of water and fuelling deadly bushfires that have devastated the country’s southeast.

Camels were first introduced to Australia in the 1840s to aid in the exploration of the continent’s vast interior, with up to 20,000 imported from India in the six decades that followed.

Australia is now thought to have the largest wild camel population in the world, with official estimates suggesting more than one million are roaming the country’s inland deserts.

The animals are considered a pest, as they foul water sources and trample native flora while foraging for food over vast distances each day.

Traditional owners in the APY Lands have for years mustered and sold off feral camels.

But more recently they have “been unable to manage the scale and number of camels that congregate in dry conditions”, according to the environment department.

 

AFP

Australian Firefighters Battle To Bring Inferno Under Control

Firefighters tackle a bushfire in thick smoke in the town of Moruya, south of Batemans Bay, in New South Wales on January 4, 2020.  PETER PARKS / AFP

 

Exhausted firefighters said they had finally brought Australia’s largest “megablaze” under control Monday, as wet weather promised to deliver much-needed respite for countryside ravaged by bushfires.

New South Wales firefighters said they finally had the upper hand in the fight against the vast Gospers Mountain fire on Sydney’s northwestern outskirts, which has been burning for almost three months.

Visiting the area on Monday, New South Wales Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said there was a “small area of burning still to complete” but the “containment prognosis looks promising”.

The fire seared an area of national park three times the size of Greater London and lit several connected blazes totalling over 800,000 hectares.

As residents and authorities continued to come to grips with the sheer scale of the devastation, the Bureau of Meteorology forecast some firegrounds areas could get up to 50 millimetres (two inches) of rain in the next week, a relief after a prolonged drought.

If that forecast bears out, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service said it would be “all of our Christmas, birthday, engagement, anniversary, wedding and graduation presents rolled into one. Fingers crossed.”

Dozens of other fires are yet to be controlled.

Alice Cooper 

The climate-change-fuelled fires have prompted an international outpouring and donations from around the world to help communities and animal populations.

Australia’s unique flora and fauna has taken a catastrophic hit, with an estimated one billion animals killed, and countless trees and shrubs burned away.

The country’s environment minister Sussan Ley has warned that in some areas, koalas may have to be reclassified as endangered.

The government has earmarked an initial $50 million (US$35 million) to spend on helping with the wildlife recovery.

“This has been an ecological disaster, a disaster that is still unfolding,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announcing the emergency fund.

This weekend, Sydney will host a charity gig to benefit fire services, the Red Cross and animal welfare organisations.

Headliners include Alice Cooper, Olivia Newton-John and Queen.

 Bushfire backlash 

The political impact of the bushfires is also coming into sharper relief.

A poll released Monday showed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s approval ratings have nosedived in the face of widespread anger over his handling of the deadly crisis.

The Newspoll survey showed 59 percent of Australian voters are dissatisfied with the conservative leader’s performance overall, and only 37 percent were satisfied, an abrupt reversal since his shock election win last May.

Morrison has been criticised heavily for his response to the months-long crisis — which included going on holiday to Hawaii, making a series of gaffes and misleading statements about his government’s actions, and forcing angry victims to shake his hand.

Morrison began the crisis insisting local authorities had enough resources to handle the fires and exhausted volunteers firefighters “want to be there”.

He also repeatedly stated that Australia was doing more than enough to meet its emission reduction targets, prompting a series of large-scale street protests.

Seeing a backlash, Morrison has since deployed the military, launched the largest peacetime call up of reserves, pledged billions of dollars in aid, increased payments to firefighters, and suggested more work may need to be done on emissions.

PHOTOS: Tears As Fire Razes Over 400 Shops In Anambra Market

 

Over four hundred shops have been destroyed by fire at the Old Motor Spare Parts Market, popularly called Mgbuka Obosi, in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State.

During a visit by Channels Television crew on Saturday, a mammoth crowd gathered at the scene, lamenting the devastating incident, as well as questioning the competence of the market security guards.

They noted that the guards should have taken proactive measures that would have cut down the extent of damage in the market.

Although the cause of the fire has yet to be ascertained, the chairman of the market, Mr Samuel Ezeobodo, gave the report he got from the market security officials after 12 midnight.

According to him, a leaking gas cylinder inside one of the affected shops may be the cause of the fire from where it spread to other shops.

Ezeobodo disclosed the death of one of the market leaders, Mr Godwin Edozieuno, who died of shock upon hearing that his shop was one of those affected.

The damage is massive and some of the affected traders bemoaned their fate, saying they have been rendered helpless.

Amidst the tears of market men and women, one of the traders was lucky his shop was not gutted by fire despite its closeness to those razed.

See more photos below:

Senate President Commiserates With Yobe Fire Victims

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan,

 

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, has sympathised with the family the mother and her three daughters who died in a fire disaster on Tuesday night.

The victims were killed in an inferno at Red Bricks Quarters on Maiduguri road, Damaturu in Yobe State.

READ ALSO: Pregnant Mother, Three Children Killed In Yobe Fire

Lawan, who also condoled with the state government over the tragic incident asked residents of the state to take precaution to avoid an outbreak of fire disaster in homes and offices, especially whenever there is a power outage.

Lawan however commended the head of the family who bravely rescued his five-year-old son before escaping from the inferno.

He prayed for God’s comfort for the bereaved family and for an end to such incidents.

Pregnant Mother, Three Children Killed In Yobe Fire

 

A pregnant mother and three of her children have been killed in a fire incident that occurred in their apartment in Damaturu, the Yobe state capital.

The cause of the inferno which started at midnight on Wednesday is yet to be known, but two flats were razed down.

According to an eyewitness who spoke to Channels Television, the husband, one Mr Adamu was able to rescue their last child while he escaped with burns.

READ ALSO: Nigerian Passport Ranks 95th In The World

Confirming the fire and number of casualty to Channels TV, the Executive Secretary of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Muhammad Goje, said that two households were burnt completely and four lives were lost to the unfortunate incident.

“It was with a heavy heart we received the report and despite the curfew, we went out and reached the six-storey house. A family of six, a pregnant mother and her three children, unfortunately, died during the incident and the father was able to throw one of the children and he was also safe but the father sustained some burns.

“Two households burnt, lost four lives,” he added.

Meanwhile, when Channels Television visited Damaturu specialist hospital, Mr. Adamu was seen in a critical condition and according to the doctor on duty, he has been attended to and will receive adequate treatment.

“The patient was brought in with a flame burn at about 12 am this morning and according to the assessment that was made, the burns were about 20 percent of his body and he was attended to as a flame burn emergency.

“According to the report I was given, there were people that lost their lives.”

300 Migrants Arrested Over UN Camp Fire

 

Niger police have arrested more than 300 Sudanese asylum seekers after accusing them of burning down a UN refugee camp in the north of the country, prosecutors said on Monday.

The Niger town of Agadez has become a major transit point for migrants from sub-Saharan Africa trying to reach Europe and for those escaping chaos in neighbouring Libya.

Agadez prosecutor Seyni Saidou told state television 335 asylum seekers had been arrested on Saturday after they were identified as taking part in burning their camp.

City officials said “incidents” erupted after security forces dislodged hundreds of asylum seekers from the local offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), where they were holding a sit-in to demand refugee status and placement in Europe.

“Once they were brought back in buses, they first set fire to the camp” before attacking security forces who escorted them, one official said.

According to a report by local authorities, 290 homes and the infirmary were burned down.

At least two people were injured by the demonstrators, who “broke bus windows”.

Charges include unarmed assembly on a public highway, rebellion by deliberate destruction of property and arson, prosecutors said.

Some 1,400 Sudanese who fled insecurity and slavery in Libya since 2017 live around the camp about 10 km from Agadez. Since 2018, the Sudanese have been demonstrating regularly in Niamey and Agadez for quicker settlement in host countries, especially in Europe.

Hundreds of refugees, particularly Ethiopians and Eritreans living in Niamey, have been resettled in France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland.

AFP

More Than Aus$25mn Raised As Australia Reels From Bushfire Fury

Firefighters tackle a bushfire near Batemans Bay in New South Wales on January 3, 2020. With temperatures expected to rise well above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) again on January 4, a state of emergency has been declared across much of Australia’s heavily populated southeast in an unprecedented months-long bushfire crisis.
PETER PARKS / AFP

 

 

A global appeal to help Australian firefighters tackling catastrophic bushfires raised more than Aus$25 million on Monday, as swaths of the country suffered extensive damage and the death toll from the long-running crisis hit 24.

East coast seaside towns were plunged into darkness, ash rained down on rural communities and major cities were again cloaked in choking smoke, even as stunned Australians tried to regroup amid a wave of cooler air and light rain.

The weekend marked some of the worst days in the country’s deadly bushfire crisis, with hundreds more properties destroyed and the overall death toll climbing to 24, including a man who died Saturday trying to save a friend’s home.

Comedian Celeste Barber used her international social media fame to launch a Facebook fundraiser for firefighters that had surpassed its Aus$25 million ($17 million) target in just three days with donations from all over the globe.

American pop star Pink said she would donate US$500,000 to the firefighters, a donation matched by Australian actress Nicole Kidman.

World number one tennis player Ashleigh Barty pledged to hand over all her winnings from this week’s Brisbane International tournament — potentially US$250,000 — to the Red Cross.

Around 200 fires continued to burn Sunday, many out of control, although only a handful prompted emergency warnings as temperatures dipped.

Everywhere, millions of beleaguered residents struggled to come to grips with a catastrophe that has taken place on a near-continental scale, unfurled over months, altering daily life.

“We’re in uncharted territory,” New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said. “We can’t pretend that this is something that we have experienced before. It’s not.”

Authorities have struggled to keep pace with the severity of the crisis — which has now scorched an area almost the size of Ireland.

While bushfires are common in Australia’s dry summers, climate change has pushed up land and sea temperatures and led to more extremely hot days and severe fire seasons.

Decades to recover

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Saturday announced the country’s largest military call-up in years, mobilising up to 3,000 reservists to assist exhausted volunteer firefighters.

Warships and combat helicopters have already been repurposed to help with the largest maritime evacuation in Australia since World War II — moving to safety some of the 4,000 people trapped for days on the foreshore of Mallacoota, midway between Sydney and Melbourne.

Up and down the coast, thousands of people remained displaced and many more weighed an uncertain future.

Noreen Ralston-Birchaw, 75, lost her home in the southeast coastal town of Mogo on New Year’s Eve and said she was unsure what to do.

“At this very moment, I don’t want to go back and see my house laying burnt on the ground,” she told AFP. “I don’t want to rebuild there.”

Morrison also announced the establishment of a Bushfire Recovery Agency to run for at least two years and help survivors get back on their feet, a signal that the path ahead will be long and difficult.

Even for those not in the fires’ direct path, the crisis has put Australia’s much-admired outdoor lifestyle on hold: barbecues have been barred under blanket fire bans, top sporting events have been called off and beach trips cancelled.

The country’s distinctive flora and fauna will take years or decades to recover — countless thousands of gum trees have been lost and experts on Kangaroo Island said half the koala population has been wiped out.

Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday said she was “deeply saddened” by the fires, and thanked the emergency services “who put their own lives in danger” to help communities.

Easing conditions

Sunday brought milder conditions, including some rainfall in New South Wales and neighbouring Victoria state, but some communities were still under threat from out-of-control blazes, particularly in and around the town of Eden in New South Wales near the Victorian border.

“The sky is still red,” said John Steele, 73, who was evacuated with his wife from their rural property north of Eden late Saturday. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

In Cooma, in inland southern New South Wales, the fire crisis turned into a flood disaster when a large tower carrying 4.5 million litres of water collapsed, sweeping away cars and filling homes with mud.

“First bushfire and now flood, back-to-back disasters,” a shaken resident who asked not to be named told AFP.

Australia’s capital Canberra was ranked as the city with the poorest air quality in the world on Sunday by Air Visual, an independent online air-quality index monitor, amid a severe haze caused by the fires.

Flights were cancelled, galleries were closed to safeguard public health and a large consignment of face masks was being brought in.

In some rural areas affected by fires, police patrolled the streets amid reports of looting and break-ins.

Fire Rages Through Bayelsa Community

 

Tragedy struck on Friday at a community in Bayelsa State after a building was ravaged by fire.

The incident occurred at Amassoma town in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state.

It has yet to be ascertained if anyone was injured or killed in the inferno.

Channels Television gathered that the incident was a result of fire said to have been lit with the intention of burning some debris.

It was, however, left unattended causing it to spread to the neighbouring building in the community.

A crowd of residents, majorly youths, and a police officer were seen at the scene of the event making efforts to put out the fire at the time of this report.

See photos from the scene of the incident below:

Australia Braces For More Catastrophic Wildfires

Firefighters tackle a bushfire near Batemans Bay in New South Wales on January 3, 2020. AFP

 

Beleaguered Australian communities braced for yet more catastrophic bushfire conditions expected on Saturday, as Australia’s navy evacuated around one thousand people from a southeastern town.

In the town of Mallacoota, residents and tourists hemmed to the foreshore since New Year’s Eve fires clambered aboard landing craft with family, pets and a few belongings.

By late Friday, around 1,000 had been taken to the HMAS Choules and the MV Sycamore, which were to sail down the coast to safety.

The scale of Australia’s unprecedented months-long bushfire crisis has shocked the country and the world.

Since late September, at least 20 people have died, dozens have gone missing, more than 1,300 homes have been damaged and an area roughly double the size of Belgium or Hawaii has burned.

But experts predict Saturday could bring even more devastating conditions with temperatures expected to rise well above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

A state of emergency has been declared across much of Australia’s heavily populated southeast and more than 100,000 people have been told to leave their homes across three states.

“There is still a window for people to leave,” said New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian. “If you don’t need to be in the area, you need to leave.”

Thousands of tourists, heeding that warning, abandoned their summer holidays on a popular 300-kilometre (190-mile) length of the southeastern coastline, prompting queues of cars stretching toward Sydney and Canberra.

On the road north of Nowra, families sat amid the haze in cars loaded with dogs, surfboards and bicycles, with traffic at a virtual standstill.

Eloise Givney, 26, escaped from the blazes with a police escort after she and a large group of family members spent four days isolated without power, phones or internet.

“The fire came within about 50 metres of us and we drove through fire, because there’s only one road in and one road out,” she told AFP, adding the flames soared 15 metres high on either side of the road.

“We’ve been stuck without power for four days now. We haven’t been able to feed the kids — we’ve got five kids with us — and we ran out of food about a day ago.”

New South Wales Transport Minister Andrew Constance called it the “largest evacuation of people out of the region ever”.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s Jonathan How said Saturday’s “conditions are set to mirror or even deteriorate beyond what we saw on New Year’s Eve.”

“Strong, dry westerly winds will cause ongoing fires to flare up yet again threatening communities that have already experienced widespread devastation.”

That front arrived in South Australia on Friday, prompting an emergency warning on Kangaroo Island where it threatens to consume an entire national park.

Facing vast fire fronts, volunteer firefighters have been struggling to cope.

Adam Harris, captain of the Rural Fire Service in Sussex Inlet — which was hit by the New Year’s Eve blazes and remained under threat — told AFP there were not enough fire crews on the ground.

“Every resource is being used, that’s the thing. There’s so much fire on the ground that you’ve got to use every resource. We don’t have enough trucks to be everywhere.”

 Political fallout

Conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison — who was pilloried for holidaying in Hawaii as the country was ablaze and resisting calls to pay exhausted firefighters — has come under renewed criticism for his handling of the crisis.

Visiting the hard-hit town of Cobargo, Morrison encountered a tearful young mother and a volunteer firefighter who both refused to shake his hand.

He returned to his motorcade amid a volley of swearing and abuse. “You won’t be getting any votes down here, buddy,” one resident yelled.

Morrison’s Liberal ally and local parliamentarian Andrew Constance told 7 News that “the locals probably gave him the welcome that he probably deserved”.

“The feeling is bloody raw.”

Morrison later acknowledged that “people are frustrated”.

“I understand how people are feeling and however they wish to respond is a matter for them,” he said. “I don’t take it personally.”

With no sign of a let-up in the fires, Morrison has cancelled a visit to India planned for January 13.

He had a telephone conversation Friday with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who conveyed his condolences and said he looked forward to welcoming Morrison to India “at a mutually convenient time later in the year,” the Indian foreign ministry said.

The crisis continued to touch cities like Sydney and Melbourne, where thick smoke has become the norm and fires have licked at suburban areas.

The blazes on Friday again shrouded Melbourne and Australia’s capital in smoke, forcing the Canberra International tennis tournament to be relocated.

“I just feel nervous. I feel uneasy,” Melbourne resident Tui Lyon told AFP.

“I don’t really feel like you can go about your daily business without having that feeling in your stomach –- just concern for loved ones and just completely overwhelmed by the smoke.”

Australian Prime Minister Cuts Short Vacation To Face Fire Crisis

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison (C) delivers a national apology to child sex abuse victims in the House of Representatives in Parliament House in Canberra on October 22, 2018.  Sean Davey / AFP

 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison cut short a Hawaii holiday on Friday following a barrage of criticism for vacationing while his country battles an unprecedented bushfire crisis.

Morrison expressed regret for the family trip as two volunteer firefighters were killed and a record heatwave exacerbated dozens of out-of-control blazes.

Pressure had been piling on Morrison over his vacation this week, as thousands of exhausted volunteer firefighters battled blazes across the country and millions of people in Sydney choked on toxic smoke.

“I deeply regret any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time,” Morrison said in a statement Friday.

He added he would be returning to Australia as soon as possible “given the most recent tragic events”, referring to the deaths of the two firefighters.

Geoffrey Keating, 32, and Andrew O’Dwyer, 36 died when a tree damaged their truck on Thursday as they battled out-of-control blazes south of Sydney.

Three other firefighters in the vehicle survived with minor injuries.

Criticism of Morrison’s absence has been widespread, sparking street protests and a flood of angry social media posts demanding #WhereIsScomo.

The situation was worsened by the prime minister’s office initially refusing to confirm his whereabouts.

“We are seeing an absolute lack of leadership from this government and it is a disgrace,” said Leighton Drury, a firefighters’ union leader addressing Morrison’s absence, “where the bloody hell are you?”

 ‘Huge loss’ 

New South Wales fire commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said firefighters everywhere were grieving the “huge loss” of the two young fathers who were caught in “the worst imaginable set of circumstances”.

“(They) simply went out, doing a remarkable job, like all their colleagues, and like they have done year-in, year-out, and to not be coming home after their shift is tremendous grief,” he said.

The fire that they were battling was still out-of-control Friday, leaving no time for their colleagues to grieve.

Fires are burning almost the entire length of Australia’s east coast, with more than 100 blazes in New South Wales alone.

A state of emergency was declared in New South Wales — the country’s most populous state — on Thursday because of the “catastrophic” conditions.

On Friday the crisis spread to South Australia, where firefighters warned of “very dangerous” conditions as they fought a fire that had engulfed a vineyard in the Adelaide Hills.

The state’s premier Steven Marshall said that one person had died in a car crash near one fire, and another person is missing. Four volunteer firefighters were reportedly injured.

At least three million hectares (7.4 million acres) of land has been torched across the country in recent months, with eight people killed and more than 800 homes destroyed.

Australia endures bushfires every year but they began particularly early this season, lasted longer and have been far more intense.

Scientists have attributed this in part to global warming, although Morrison’s conservative government has been reluctant to link the fires with climate change.

A series of record temperatures this week has further raised the alarm about global warming and has worsened the bushfire crisis.

Australia endured a record national average maximum temperature of 41.9 degrees Celsius (107.4 degrees Fahrenheit) on Wednesday.

This was a full degree higher than the previous record set just one day earlier.

Until this week, the record high had been 40.3 C in January 2013.

In some parts of Australia, the temperature neared 50 Celsius, but a change in the weather Saturday is expected to see maximum temperatures drop by 20 C in the south of the country.

Fire Guts Total Refinery In France

FILES) This file photo taken on June 10, 2018shows the French oil giant Total’s refinery in Gonfreville-l’Orcher, northwestern France.  CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

A fire erupted at a Total oil refinery in northwestern France on Saturday, but was brought under control and there were no injuries, local authorities said.

The blaze started at about 4am in a pump at the plant at Gonfreville-l’Orcher, near the port city of Le Havre, the local prefecture of the Seine-Maritime region said.

It said the blaze has been brought under control and is dying out though some small fires remained.

Tests for air pollution near the plant were negative but the prefecture advised residents to stay indoors.

Total said in a statement that no one was injured and that all those at the site, which employs around 1,500 people, have been accounted for.

AFP