Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday denied his climate change policies had caused unprecedented bushfires ravaging the country and insisted his government was doing enough to tackle global warming.
As blazes that scorched swathes of countryside continued to spread and the country’s largest city was cloaked in hazardous smoke, Morrison defended his climate record and said Australia was “doing our bit”.
His comments came after weeks spent refusing to speak about the link between climate change and deadly fires described by the emergency services as unprecedented in number and scale for the early bushfire season.
Firefighters have followed the crisis across four states as extreme temperatures and high winds sparked fires in new areas.
On Thursday, it was Victoria’s turn, with dozens of fires burning across the state by early afternoon.
Authorities warned residents in towns about 50 kilometres (31.1 miles) north of Ballarat, the state’s third-largest city, that it was too late for them to evacuate safely. The authorities issued a “Code Red”, the state’s highest fire warning, for the first time in a decade.
Last Week, Weather forecasts had said that there will be no possibilities rain for at least three months.
Dozens of fires also burn in the neighbouring state of Queensland and authorities have ordered an evacuation in towns such as Noosa North Shore and Woodgate.
The fires have been fuelled by tinder-dry conditions after three years of drought that experts say has been exacerbated by climate change, a factor that has sparked a sharp political debate in recent days.
Queensland is on high alert amid severe fire conditions, with a forecast wind change expected to worsen several large blazes in difficult-to-access areas of the state.
About 70 fires are burning in the state, with Pechey residents told the safest option is to leave the area as conditions are currently too dangerous.
In Sydney, Australia’s biggest city, the hazardous pollution caused by the smoke, again forced schoolchildren to stay inside, but Morrison dismissed mounting calls for action.