A drop in temperature and rain showers have brought hope of a respite from bushfires that have ravaged three Australian states, claiming 24 lives and destroying almost 2,000 homes.
Soaring temperatures and strong winds fanned fires in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia on Saturday, forcing thousands to flee and bringing flames to the suburban fringes of Sydney.
Thousands of firefighters fought to contain the blazes but many continued to burn out of control, threatening to wipe out rural townships and causing almost incalculable damage to property and wildlife.
A state of emergency has been declared in New South Wales
The latest fatality occurred at Batlow in New South Wales, where a 47-year-old man died while defending the home of a friend from encroaching fires.
State police said he was found unconscious in a vehicle and could not be revived.
Earlier on Saturday, a father and son who were battling flames for two days died on a highway on Kangaroo Island, off South Australia state.
Meanwhile, prime minister Scott Morrison told a news conference on Sunday: “It’s been another difficult night across Australia, in particular in New South Wales and Victoria and in South Australia, with the confirmation of another life lost.
More from Australia Bushfires
Image: This satellite image shows smoke from wildfires burning east of Obrost, Victoria
“While the weather conditions have improved, as you would have heard, as reported from New South Wales and Victoria, there are still many fires that are raging.
“And there is a very significant firefighting effort which is continuing.
“The better conditions today obviously will assist, but it is important to stress, as I’ve been advised, that the nature of those fires is still very strong.
“And it will take some time. And that will require a considerable amount of effort. And we absolutely understand that that is where the primary focus is, particularly of the fire commissioners as they are addressing that very urgent task.”
Image: Celebrities and business leaders help to raise millions to fund firefighting operations
The deadly fires, which have been raging since September, have already burned about five million hectares (12.35 million acres) of land and have killed an estimated 500 million birds, reptiles and mammals in New South Wales alone.
Actors, popstars and Britain’s royal family have stepped in to offer support for victims of the bushfires, helping to raise millions for firefighting services and wildlife shelters.
Nicole Kidman pledged a $500,000 (£381,000) donation on behalf of her family to New South Wales state Rural Fire Service, without specifying a currency.
She posted on Instagram: “Our family’s support, thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the fires all over Australia.”
Australian comedian Celeste Barber, who has family near the bushfire-hit town of Eden on the country’s south eastern coast, and popstars Pink and Iggy Azalea, who hails from a blaze-hit region north of Sydney, also pledged cash.
A GoFundMe page set up by Barber, who won fame for her parody photographs mimicking “real-life” re-enactments of high-end fashion shoots, has so far raised $20m (£15m) for the NSW Rural Fire Service.
Pop singer Pink pledged $500,000 (£381,000) while rapper Azalea helped raise $100,000 (£76,000) for a New South Wales wildlife shelter.
Other donations have been made by actor Russell Crowe and tech entrepreneur Mike Cannon-Brookes.
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Source : Sky News