Forest fire crisis in Australia: Prime Minister Morrison announces $ 2 billion for humanitarian aid
MELBOURNE: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced an additional $ 2 billion on Monday to a new agency to coordinate a national response to rebuild communities and livelihoods after the deadly forest fire crisis.
The Bushfire National Recovery Agency, headed by former federal police chief Andrew Colvin, will help communities affected by forest fires to recover.
The agency would be funded with an initial amount of 2 billion Australian dollars (USD 1.38 billion) to ensure that families, farmers and business owners affected by unprecedented forest fires would get the support they needed while they were they were recovering, said the prime minister.
It's a long road ahead and we will be with these communities every step of the way as they rebuild, said Morrison, who faces widespread criticism in Australia for his handling of the crisis.
The forest fire crisis has charged a high price with more than 1,500 homes already lost in the course of this fire season, which has been running since September, according to the government.
More than 20 people have lost their lives so far.
While the immediate approach to our emergency services and his is to keep people safe and defend themselves from the fires that plague so many areas, we must also be prepared to touch the ground in communities where the fire front has passed to help them rebuild .
The agency will ensure that the work of state and territorial governments is supported and will act as a central 'one-stop' team to coordinate the response. We will do whatever it takes, he said.
Meanwhile, the fire continued to burn in several regions of the country, including New South Wales and Victoria, which on Monday received some relief after the rain.
Shane Fitzsimmons commissioner confirmed that nearly 150 fires were still burning throughout the state.
We are certainly seeing a relief of conditions throughout the state. And in fact, there is even a bit of drizzle here on the south coast. And it is certainly a welcome postponement, he said, adding that unfortunately he is not putting out the fires. It is not helping us with the progress of burning and consolidation work.
All our fires are now outside the emergency alert level. We have nine at the alert and surveillance level, which is indicative of a fire behavior and potential in progress and the fire still burns in and around many communities. There is a lot of damage and destruction, he said.
In Victoria, all emergency warnings throughout the state were reduced after the rain, however, a total of 15 'surveillance and action' warnings remained in place for the state.
Now Victorians were not counted due to forest fires, according to the latest confirmation from state prime minister Daniel Andrews, who also announced a new forest fire aid agency for the state.
In South Australia , the forest fire on Kangaroo Island remained uncontrolled, burning at the level of looking and acting.
Previously, the fire killed two people, burned about a third of the island and is believed to have killed approximately half of the island's koala population.
The mayor of Kangaroo Island said he knows at least 50 houses that have been destroyed.
Water and energy infrastructure has been significantly damaged in the west of the island. Repair estimates are not yet known.
Nearly six million hectares have been burned in Australia in the current forest fire crisis, with more than 20 deaths reported so far.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Morrison summoned 3,000 military reserve soldiers to fight forest fires, the first time reservists were summoned in such a large number in living memory.
Morrison was criticized for taking a family vacation in Hawaii at the beginning of the crisis, and many people complained about the lack of preparation for the use of resources.
Last week, he was disturbed when he visited a municipality in New South Wales where houses were destroyed and one of them belonged to one of three volunteer firefighters who died in the crisis.
More than 3,000 firefighters are on the front line, with 31 specialized attack teams throughout NSW.
The Australian army has been helping with air reconnaissance, mapping, search and rescue, logistics and air support for months.