Australian firefighters continued on Saturday to fight a hundred catastrophic bushfires in the east of the country, which have already killed three, missing and injured, and destroyed at least 150 homes and schools.
The soldiers of the fire had managed Saturday, thanks to a slight improvement of the meteorological conditions, to take control of most of the 17 most threatening fires. But the danger is still far from being averted and thousands of evacuees still could not return to their homes on Saturday.
In Forster, a small picturesque town on the east coast, the landscape was swallowed up on Saturday by the smoke rising from several fires, while in the sky the water bombers came to the aid of the firemen.
“These guys did a hell of a lot of work,” told AFP in the nearby town of Taree, showing Don Russell firefighters who managed to stop the fire just meters from his home. His neighbor was not so happy: his house, emptied of its occupants, went into flames.
– trapped in flames –
Elsewhere, others have been trapped in flames. The body of a charred man was found in a car, another in the debris of his house, and a woman died of her burns despite doctors' efforts to save her, local emergency services said.
Several people are also missing and 30 others were injured, mostly firefighters.
In some areas, the population got stuck and was instructed to “look for shelter because it is too late to leave”.
Local radios have stopped their programs to explain how to survive a fire in the event of people being stranded in their homes or vehicles.
Given the unusual magnitude of the fires, which affect an area of nearly 1,000 km along the coast from Brisbane to Sydney, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said soldiers could lend a hand to the 1,300 firefighters present on the spot.
Hundreds of civilians also volunteered to help their hard-hit neighbors.
Warmer, less windy weather on Saturday helped firefighters deal with fires in rural Queensland (NE) and New South Wales (SE). While they were still 17 Friday night, an unprecedented number, there was only a handful Saturday.
But New South Wales State Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian warned of the forecast for the coming week, “which would mean we did not have the worst,” she said.
– Powder magazine –
Australia is used to bush fires, but this year they have been extremely numerous and early. The first occurred in September from northern New South Wales to tropical Queensland.
If this start of the season is dramatic, scientists are worried for the next few months.
Climate change and adverse weather patterns have resulted in exceptional drought, low humidity, and strong winds that contribute to bush fires.
“We have never had so many fires at the same time and with such a high level of urgency,” fire chief Shane Fitzsimmons told ABC Public Television.
“We are in a powder keg on almost the entire state, and it only takes a spark to start a fire that can burn for days,” said Queensland Fire Chief Mike Wassing.
The prime minister, whose government has downplayed the threat of climate change, has evaded questions about its effect. “My only thoughts today are with those who lost their lives and their families … (…) Australia has been fighting ferocious fires for as long as Australia is a nation, and well before. will continue to do so. “