Australian police investigators will join a probe into the crash of a firefighting plane that left three American crew dead while helping to battle devastating bushfire, according to officials on Friday.
The Hercules C-130 water-bombing aircraft erupted in a fireball on impact in the Snowy Mountains on Thursday as firefighters raced to tackle another outbreak of the deadly blazes.
Hazardous materials specialists were working to secure the crash site before air transport safety investigators can begin sifting through the evidence with police support.
According to authorities, three men aged 42, 43 and 45 were believed to be on board at the time of the crash, which left no survivors.
Firefighters had been battling dangerous blazes Thursday, as strong winds and temperatures reaching above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) sparked new fires across Australia’s southeast before conditions eased Friday.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the crash highlighted the dangerous work being undertaken by firefighters as they attempted to extinguish massive blazes across Australia’s southeast.
“There are in excess of 70 aircraft that have been used today alone and today is a stark and horrible reminder of the dangerous conditions that our volunteers, (and) our emergency services personnel… (face) on a daily basis,” she said.
On January 19, Australia forecaster warned of severe storms to hit the bushfire-hit state of Victoria, which could lead to flooding.
Earlier, hundreds of Australians were arrested for deliberately starting the devastating bushfires since September.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison had said, “This is taking a very heavy toll,” adding to it that more than 1,500 homes lost to fires across the country since September.
Morrison also cancelled his official trip to India that was planned for this month in order to deal with a bushfire crisis ravaging parts of his country.
About 4,000 people in the town of Mallacoota in Victoria headed to the waterfront after the main road was cut off.
The impact of the bushfires has spread beyond affected communities, with heavy smoke engulfing the country’s second-largest city Melbourne and the national capital Canberra. Some government departments were shut in Canberra as the city’s air quality was once-again ranked the world’s poorest, according to independent online air-quality index monitor Air Visual.
The disaster has sparked growing public anger with Morrison. Rallies are planned on Friday to call on his government to step up efforts to tackle climate change, which experts say have helped fuel the fires.
(With inputs from agency)