Australian firefighters took advantage of a brief drop in scorching temperatures on Tuesday to strengthen the area of separation in the country’s south-east fire zone. The financial and environmental costs of the fires have risen further. The latest official figures show that more than 10.3 million hectares of land have been raging in recent weeks, the equivalent of South Korea.
Images posted online by Japan’s Kwai Hua 8 weather satellite and NASA’s Earth Observatory show that smoke from the Australian wildfires is as far away as South America.
Firefighters are taking advantage of the drop in temperatures in the south-east in recent days to prepare for temperatures and winds that are expected to pick up later this week. High temperatures and high winds are expected to fuel existing flames and ignite new ones.
“We need to be vigilant,” Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp told reporters at an afternoon news conference. The weather is still dry. “
Australia’s wildfire season comes earlier than usual. It follows a three-year drought that has left much of the country prone to fire.
Thousands of people have been left homeless, and many rural residents have been living without power, communication and, in some cases, water. The rescue operation, coordinated by the army, is continuing.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who will meet senior banking figures on Tuesday, acknowledged the economic impact of the crisis, pledging A$2 billion ($1.39 billion) on Monday to the new National Forest Fire Reconstruction Agency.
The Australian Insurance Council on Tuesday raised its estimate of losses for the bushfire to more than A$700 million, which is expected to increase as more affected areas enter.
Data released on Tuesday showed the fires were starting to hit the Australian economy. ANZ’s consumer confidence index fell to its lowest level in more than four years last week, with job advertisements in December posting the biggest monthly drop in seven months.