The death toll climbed to 28 in Australia due to the raging bushfires that have ravaged the country since September 2019, as the authorities in the southeastern state of Victoria confirmed Wednesday the death of one more person.
The latest victim was David Moresi, 69, a contracted firefighter who died as the excavator he was driving overturned while he was working to contain a fire in East Gippsland, the most affected area in the state reported Efe news.
Rain and cooler temperatures in recent days have helped firefighters contain the dozens of active blazes in Victoria and New South Wales, the most-affected state, where 20 casualties have been recorded.
Early on Wednesday, fifty flights in and out of the Melbourne airport were disrupted due to dense smoke arising from the Australian bushfire that has reduced visibility and created dangerous conditions.
A spokesperson for the airport told Xinhua that delays were likely to continue well into the afternoon and passengers should check for updates.
“We would expect some of the delays to continue into the evening and possibly again tomorrow,” they said.
It is the second day of significantly reduced air quality for Melbourne after some flights were affected on Tuesday.
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.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose government has been criticised for its slow response to the emergency, pledged Australian $2 billion ($1.4 billion) of taxpayer money for a national recovery fund. “It’s a long road ahead and we will be with these communities every step of the way as they rebuild,” he added.
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.
They broke out before the beginning of summer in the southern hemisphere, which begins in December and where a shortage of rain is expected until the end of March.