Call to evacuate thousands in Aus over fires

Sydney: Australian authorities on Sunday asked thousands of tourists and residents to evacuate a popular natural area in the southeast of the country due to forest fires.

Victoria state fire chief Chris Hardman urged anyone in the East Gippsland forests to leave the area immediately in the face of the danger of fires amid high temperatures, reports Efe news.

“The message today if you are in Forests or Parks in East Gippsland time to Leave Now, the large fires in the landscapes will get much bigger tomorrow,” he tweeted.

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“Leave Now, it will be very very dangerous be in the bush today or tomorrow. Leave Now!”

The fires have already burned around 100,000 of the more than 300,000 hectares of East Gippsland, a place popular with visitors in the summer month due to its natural wealth.

At least eight people have died due to fires that have also affected the states of New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and Queensland.

More than 1,000 homes have been destroyed by the blazes, 800 of them in New South Wales, where three million hectares have been razed, an area of a similar size to Belgium.

There has been calls for the remuneration and professionalization of thousands of volunteer firefighters who have been working tirelessly for weeks and months to tackle the flames.

In the midst of this debate, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Sunday an economic aid for volunteer firefighters.

“We’re backing our volunteer firefighters in by providing financial support of up to $6,000 each to those who are self-employed or work for small and medium businesses and have lost income because they’ve been fighting fires,” he said in a tweet.

Environmental groups have criticised the prime minister for his support of the coal industry and for refusing to link the rise in temperatures and fires with the climate crisis.

The blazes broke out before the beginning of summer in the southern hemisphere, which begins in December and where a shortage of rain is expected until the end of March.

The most serious fires seen in the oceanic country in recent decades occurred in February 2009 in the state of Victoria, leaving 173 dead and another 414 injured.

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