Prime Minister Narendra Modi calls the Australian prime minister; expresses condolences for damages to life, property due to forest fires

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday he had a telephone conversation with his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison and expressed sincere condolences on behalf of all Indians for damage to life and property due to serious and prolonged forest fires there.

He also offered unlimited support from India to his people, who bravely face this unprecedented natural calamity, according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Expressing his satisfaction at the progress in bilateral relations in recent years, Prime Minister Modi reiterated India's commitment to strengthen its strategic partnership with Australia.

He said that to this end, he hoped to welcome Morrison in India on a state visit at a mutually convenient time later in the year, according to the statement.

Morrison has suspended his four-day visit to India since January 13 due to devastating forest fires in various parts of his country, diplomatic sources said Friday.

Bush fires have swept the states of New south Wales and Victoria, killing at least 20 people and destroying about 500 houses.

Some 4,000 people, including almost 3,000 tourists, were stranded in the Mallacoota region of Victoria, as they were forced to take refuge on the beach when the fire approached on New Year's Eve.