The young daughter of a firefighter killed while tackling the Australian bushfires has been pictured wearing her father’s helmet at his funeral.
Volunteer firefighter Andrew O’Dwyer died on 19 December after a burnt tree fell into the path of the fire engine he was travelling in with colleague Geoffrey Keaton, 32, who was also killed.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was among those in attendance at Mr O’Dwyer’s funeral in Sydney on Tuesday, where his daughter Charlotte was presented with his service medal.
Image: Charlotte O’Dwyer wears her father’s helmet
Image: Charlotte is presented with her father’s service medal
Ninteen-month-old Charlotte received the medal from rural fire service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, who wept as he read out a tribute to Mr O’Dwyer, 36, during the service at a church in Horsley Park.
Addressing Charlotte and her mother Melissa, Mr Fitzsimmons said: “Charlotte should know her father was a selfless and special man, who only left because he was a hero.”
Mr O’Dwyer and Mr Keaton died when their vehicle rolled off the road at Green Wattle Creek near Buxton in Victoria, which has endured much of the devastation caused by the fires.
Hundreds of homes have been destroyed across the state, with almost 1,600 more having been gutted by the flames in neighbouring New South Wales to the north.
More from Australia
The bushfires have been most keenly felt in New South Wales, the most populous state in the country, where 130 fires were still burning as of Tuesday.
Fire turns pilot’s sky orange
According to new official data, an area the size of South Korea has now been destroyed by the bushfires.
More than 10.3 million hectares of land has been razed by the flames so far this summer, turning the skies a hellish orange across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand and sending thick black smoke as far as South America.
In Australia, thousands of people have been left homeless, some have spent days without electricity, telecommunications and drinking water, and at least 24 have died.
Chris Dickman, a biodiversity expert at the University of Sydney, estimates that almost half a billion animals have perished in the bushfires, which are among the worst the country has ever seen.
Bushfire devastates Kangaroo Island
The flames have been exacerbated by a three-year drought and the impact of climate change, although the Australian prime minister has refuted that link.
Mr Morrison said last month that it was “not credible” to say climate change had made a difference and has since been criticised for his response to the fires, notably from residents of a ravaged town he visited.
He has now pledged A$2bn (£1.05bn) to a newly-created National Bushfire Recovery Agency, and acknowledged that the ongoing crisis would have a significant impact on the Australian economy.
Image: Crews inspect a burnt-out forest in Victoria
Image: Gutted homes in Mogo Village, New South Wales
Morrison said British counterpart Boris Johnson and US President Donald Trump had both offered support, with 48 firefighters scheduled to arrive in Australia from America on Wednesday.
There are already 39 US firefighters on the ground to assist, and a further 18 incident management personnel should arrive from the US and Canada on Wednesday.
Crowe highlights Oz fires at Golden Globes
:: Listen to the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker
The Insurance Council of Australia has increased its estimate for damage claims to more than A$700m (£367.8m).
Claims are expected to jump when more fire-hit areas become accessible.
Image: Half a billion animals are estimated to have died in the bushfires
Image: Animals seen in Cobargo, New South Wales
Cooler weather conditions have brought some relief this week, although some accompanying rain has not been heavy enough to extinguish the blazes.
Victoria state emergency services minister Lisa Neville said on Monday at least eight inches of rain would need to fall over a short period of time to snuff out the fires – around 20 times what has fallen in the region in the past day.
Image: The sky above Auckland turned orange
Officials have also warned that the wildfire season is nowhere near its end.
It normally lasts through to March.
Hemsworth donates £500k to fight Oz fires
Source : Sky News