Giant fire near Sydney may burn for weeks as people struggle to breathe

The mega fire north of Sydney was created on Friday when several fires merged and was now burning across 335,000 hectares. (AP)
Updated 07 December 2019

Giant fire near Sydney may burn for weeks as people struggle to breathe

  • Thousands of weary firefighters, who have been battling bushfires for a month, were on Saturday fighting nearly 100 blazes in New South Wales state
  • A three-year drought has left much of Australia tinder dry

MELBOURNE: A giant bushfire on the edge of Sydney, which has blanketed the city in smoke causing a spike in respiratory illnesses and the cancelation of outdoor sports, will take weeks to control but will not be extinguished without heavy rains, firefighters said.
Thousands of weary firefighters, who have been battling bushfires for a month, were on Saturday fighting nearly 100 blazes in New South Wales state.
The mega fire north of Sydney, Australia’s largest city, was created on Friday when several fires merged and was now burning across 335,000 hectares.
“We need flooding rain to put these fires out. That’s really what is going to stop it,” said the New South Wales Rural Fire Service. “These will take many weeks to put out.”
Bushfires are common in Australia during the hot summer, which begins in December, but this year the fires started much earlier, blamed on soaring temperatures, dry winds and arson.
A three-year drought has left much of Australia tinder dry.
The fires around Sydney have been pumping such vast amounts of smoke into the air that they appear as significant rain on the radars, the Bureau of Meteorology said on Twitter.
New South Wales Health said late on Friday that some 1,140 people had sought medical assistance for breathing issues or asthma in the past week — a quarter more than in a typical week. NSW Ambulance fielded about a third more calls.
Six people have been killed, nearly 700 houses burnt down and millions of hectares of land razed.
Strong winds fanned flames toward several suburbs in southwest Sydney on Saturday.
“It’s been going on all day, a fire came from the back and we put it out. But then another one came from the side so the fires covered the house in foam,” said Luke Wright who helped save his brother’s home.
“The fence has been damaged but that’s about it, very lucky,” Wright told local media.
Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the worst might still be ahead, with temperatures forecast to rise into the 40 degrees Celsius in coming days and no meaningful rainfall expected until late January.
“It’s a tough couple of months ahead yet and we’ve already seen the horrific consequences of fire so far this season,” Fitzsimmons told Australia’s 9News on Saturday.
Neighboring Queensland state was battling some 45 bushfires and temperatures on Saturday as high as 40 Celsius.


Afghan security forces fail to reach ‘Taliban-mined’ site of US military plane crash

Updated 28 January 2020

Afghan security forces fail to reach ‘Taliban-mined’ site of US military plane crash

  • Probe launched into cause of Monday’s incident as Taliban claim responsibility for shooting down jet

KABUL: Afghan security forces have so far been unable to reach the crash site of a US military aircraft which went down during a mission on Monday in a Taliban-controlled area of the country.
An investigation is underway to determine what caused the Bombardier E-11A plane to crash in the Deh Yak district of Ghazni province, about 120 km southwest of Kabul, although the Taliban have claimed responsibility for shooting it down.

“The Taliban have mined the area, and security forces could not make it to the site to retrieve the bodies and recover the aircraft last evening. The Taliban had laid an ambush as security forces tried to reach the site,” Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, head of Ghazni’s provincial council, told Arab News.
He added that other US aircraft had attempted to land in the area overnight but were forced back due to bad weather.
Aref Noori, a spokesman for Ghanzi’s governor, said: “Afghan and foreign forces are preparing a joint plan to go to the site to see what they can do.”
Authorities have yet to determine how many passengers and crew were on board.
Several members of the provincial council said they had heard from locals that four people on board the plane had escaped the site of the crash soon after it came down. However, the reports could not be confirmed by the US military or other officials.
The crash comes amid a push by the Taliban and US diplomats to restart peace talks which are aimed at ending the 18-year-old conflict in the country.