Australia uses forest fire respirators to plan the next attack

MELBOURNE/SYDNEY: Australian authorities used a respite on Monday from fierce forest fires that killed 24 people across the southeast of the country to run to reopen blocked roads and evacuate people who have been trapped for days.

A second day of light rain and cold winds brought some relief from the flames fueled by heat waves that swept through two states over the weekend, but authorities warned that dangerous weather conditions were expected to return later in the week.

No one can be complacent. We are in great danger of fire later this week in hot weather, Victoria Prime Minister Daniel Andrews told reporters Monday afternoon.

Authorities redoubled their efforts on Monday to provide supplies and repatriate thousands of people who have been trapped by fire lines in coastal cities for several days.

This morning is about recovery, making sure that people who have been displaced have a safe place (to go) and that we have resources to increase the presence on the ground to clean the roads, clean where the debris is there, Berejiklian said.

Dean Linton, a Jindabyne resident in the snowy mountains, took advantage of the rest of an immediate threat to his people to visit his wife and four children who had evacuated to Sydney. He also used the 870-kilometer round trip to pick up a fire pump and a generator to help protect the family home.

There is a lot of fuel in that national park; only lightning would be needed, Linton told Reuters.

The wildfire season began earlier this year after a three-year drought that has left much of the country's forests dry and vulnerable to fires. More than 6 million hectares (15 million acres) of land have been destroyed in the states of New South Wales and Victoria.

The following are highlights of what is happening in Australia:

* There were no emergency warnings in fire-devastated states on Monday after climate change. Two people were still missing while 136 fires were still burning New south Wales (NSW), however, all fires returned to the warning level, the lowest alert level.

* The state of Victoria had 27 fires with 16 watch and act alerts. All missing persons were counted, state authorities said. South Australia I had an alert to watch and act.

* About 67,000 people have left or have been evacuated from areas devastated by fire in Victoria, said State Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville.

* Victoria created a Bushfire Recovery Agency, with initial funding of A $ 50 million ($ 35 million). The recovery is expected to cost much more than A $ 500 million, state premier Andrews said.

* Firefighters said the light rain that has brought some relief also posed challenges to the recoil efforts to reduce fuel for future fires and control existing fires.

* NSW state-owned power distributor Essential Energy said its network has suffered "significant damage", with almost 24,000 customers without power. Essential said that power "may not be restored for a while due to the extent of the damage and challenges with gaining safe access." Affected areas include Batemans Bay on the New south Wales south coast. Further south in Bermagui, food and fuel were running out, Australian Broadcasting Corp reported.

* Military helicopters were to evacuate more people, including the elderly and young children, from Mallacoota on Monday. More than a thousand people were evacuated from the city of Victoria state by two naval ships on Friday.

* Insurers have received 5,850 bushfire-related claims in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland since the Insurance Council declared a bushfire catastrophe on Nov 8.

* Losses from forest fires are estimated at A $ 375 million ($ 260 million) since November, with another A $ 56 million in losses of insured property in September and October, said the Insurance Council. The figures do not include properties lost in the last 24 to 36 hours in areas such as NSW Southern Highlands and the South Coast.

* Aspen Group hosting provider said Monday that it expects a $ 500,000 hit to the net operating income and revenues of wildfires.

* Canberra was running out of masks with the smoke-covered capital of the country, ACT emergency services said. The National Gallery of Australia said it was closed to protect visitors and works of art. The government department responsible for coordinating Australia's response to disasters and emergency management also closed its doors due to poor air quality.

* Army personnel plan to start digging graves to bury more than one hundred thousand sheep and dead cows in forest fires.

* Actor Russell Crowe skipped the Hollywood Golden Globes ceremony, where he won an award for playing former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes in the television series The Noisiest Voice in the Hall. Presenter Jennifer Aniston said Crowe stayed in Australia to protect his family from forest fires and read the comments he had prepared where he said the fires were based on climate change.

* Prime Minister Scott Morrison continued to face criticism for his handling of the crisis. Bad political judgment is one thing. Competition is something else entirely. This is the political danger zone that Scott Morrison wants to avoid in his handling of the forest fire crisis, said The Australian, of Rupert Murdoch, a government supporter, in an article from the newspaper's national affairs editor on Monday.

* State officials have thanked people for donations of clothing and food, but said the cash was more useful.

* 41 US firefighters are in Victoria and another 70 from Canada and the United States are expected to join on January 8, Victoria said on Twitter.

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