Death toll in Australia bush fires rises to four

A Tinonee resident helps to fight spot and grass fires in the Hillville area near Taree, New South Wales, on Nov 13, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

SYDNEY, Nov 14, 2019, AFP, Reuters. The death toll from devastating bush fires in eastern Australia has risen to four after a man’s body was discovered in a scorched area of bushland, police said on Thursday (Nov 14), The Straits Times reported.

Residents found the body outside the New South Wales town of Kempsey, one of several areas hit by bushfires in recent days.

Police said formal identification has yet to take place but it was believed to be the body of a 58-year-old man who lived in a shed. He was last seen last Friday.

Three others have perished in bush fires in New South Wales, the state worst affected by fires that broke out along the eastern seaboard late last week.

Hundreds of houses have been damaged or destroyed and more than one million hectares of land burnt in the blazes.

Tough conditions are expected to flare again in Queensland and New South Wales at the weekend as the temperature rises and winds pick up.

More than 100 blazes were burning on Thursday but a respite from “catastrophic” conditions has seen the danger from many fires downgraded and residents returning to sift through the remains of their homes.

Bush fires are common in Australia’s hot, dry summers, but the ferocity and early arrival of the fires in the southern spring this year has caught many by surprise.

The authorities said on Thursday that they were monitoring a fire on the outskirts of Karratha, a major gas-processing hub on Australia’s west coast. Temperatures are forecast to hit 43 deg C on Thursday in nearby Port Hedland, the world’s largest iron ore export hub.

The fires have sparked increasingly acrimonious debate over climate and fire-prevention policies, with the ruling conservative Liberal Party and the minor opposition Australian Greens exchanging barbs.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said earlier in the week that linking the fires to the government’s support of the coal industry was “the ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital city greenies”.

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