71 homes destroyed as Australia bushfire rages near locked-down Perth

This handout photo taken on Feb. 2, 2021 and released by West Australia's Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) shows a firefighter working to contain a fire outside Wooroloo, near Australia's fourth-biggest city Perth. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 03 February 2021
Follow

71 homes destroyed as Australia bushfire rages near locked-down Perth

  • The blaze has torn through swathes of land in the Perth Hills and was moving toward more densely populated areas
  • Several emergency warnings were issued, with conditions set to worsen later Wednesday and strong gusting winds expected to fan the flames

PERTH: At least 71 homes have been destroyed in a bushfire raging out of control near Australia’s fourth-biggest city Perth, authorities said Wednesday, as they told residents to ignore a coronavirus lockdown and leave threatened areas.
The blaze has torn through swathes of land in the Perth Hills and was moving toward more densely populated areas.
Six firefighters received minor injuries — including one who officials said suffered burns and continued working to extinguish the blaze — but no deaths or serious injuries have been reported so far.
“To the people who have lost their homes, it’s just devastating for them. Our thoughts go out to them,” Western Australian fire commissioner Darren Klemm said.
Several emergency warnings were issued, with conditions set to worsen later Wednesday and strong gusting winds expected to fan the flames.
The blaze hit a population that had just been forced into a snap lockdown after a coronavirus case was detected. About two million people in and around Perth fell under the stay-at-home orders imposed on Sunday.
“This is a situation the likes of which we have never seen before,” said Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan.
“A full lockdown and raging bushfires. It is frighting and it will test us all.”
No new virus cases have been detected since the lockdown began, but the number of homes lost is still expected to rise slightly.
As the fire front edged nearer to more populated areas, Klemm called on locals to act swiftly to escape the potentially deadly blaze despite the coronavirus restrictions.
“What we don’t want is indecision from people about whether they should evacuate or not when we require them to evacuate,” he said.
“So that evacuation overrides any quarantining requirements that people may have.”
Hundreds of people have fled the area since the bushfire was sparked on Monday, with many sleeping in evacuation centers overnight.
Among them was Peter Lavis, 68, who left two nights ago after watching distant smoke quickly transform the landscape until it “looked like a bomb had gone off.”
“We could see the fire clearly, the red glow and occasional rush of flames going up,” he told AFP.
“We had a little family conference and decided the best thing to do was to leave.”
Lavis said he believed his home was safe while a neighbor had reported his eldest daughter’s nearby house was also standing despite everything around it being burned.
“It’s some of the best news but also the saddest — a lot of people haven’t been so lucky,” he said.
Bushfire smoke has blanketed Perth, about 30 kilometers west of the blaze which had a 75-kilometer (47-mile) perimeter Tuesday and has so far burned almost 10,000 hectares (24,700 acres).
“It was just scorched earth. Even where I was behind the fire, there was a lot of active burning because the crews just had to react so fast,” local mayor Kevin Bailey told public broadcaster ABC.
Temperatures were forecast to peak at 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) on Wednesday before a predicted ex-tropical cyclone could bring rain and cooler temperatures but more unpredictable winds later this week.
Milder conditions overnight Tuesday had allowed firefighters to build containment lines in some areas, but Klemm cautioned there were “challenging times ahead.”
More than 200 firefighters are battling the bushfire supported by water-bombing aircraft.
More than 3.5 million hectares were burned across Western Australia during the country’s devastating 2019-2020 climate change-fueled bushfires but the state was largely spared the loss of properties and lives seen in Australia’s more densely populated southeast.
Scientists said the layout of the Perth Hills left it particularly vulnerable to blazes made increasingly more dangerous by climate change, with large fires engulfing homes in the area four times since 2009.
“Urban-bushland living will increasingly mean living with bushfire threat as climate change brings with it more frequent high bushfire danger conditions days,” said Jim McLennan, a bushfire researcher at La Trobe University.


Canada says to provide $2.2bn in Ukraine aid in 2024, Italy pens security deal with Kyiv

Updated 10 sec ago
Follow

Canada says to provide $2.2bn in Ukraine aid in 2024, Italy pens security deal with Kyiv

  • Kyiv has cast the deals as an important show of the West’s long-term commitment as its resources are stretched

KYIV: Canada said on Saturday it would provide 3.02 billion Canadian dollars ($2.2 billion) in financial and military support for Ukraine this year as the two countries signed a security agreement.

“We will stand with Ukraine with whatever it takes, for as long as it takes,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was visiting Kyiv on the second anniversary of the war, said in a statement announcing the funding.

Kyiv also signed a bilateral security deal with Italy on Saturday, President Volodomyr Zelensky said, following similar deals struck with Britain, France, Germany and Denmark in recent weeks.

In a post on social media, Zelensky said the document, signed with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, “lays a strong foundation for a long-term security partnership between Ukraine and Italy.”

The 10-year agreement between Ottawa and Kyiv “outlines key, long-term security commitments for Canada to continue supporting Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty and territorial integrity, protects its people, and rebuilds its economy for the future,” Trudeau’s office said.

The document includes funding pledges and enhanced cooperation across political, military, security, economic and humanitarian areas, but is not a defense pact or guarantee of military protection.

Kyiv has cast the deals as an important show of the West’s long-term commitment as its resources are stretched and Russia is making its first gains on the battlefield in almost a year.

Ukraine relies on tens of billions of dollars in military support to provide its army with ammunition, artillery, tanks, rockets and other equipment.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, also in Kyiv, also said Saturday the first payment under a new 50-billion-euro ($54.2 billion) EU aid program for Ukraine, worth some 4.5 billion euros ($4.9 billion), would be disbursed in March.

But as the war enters its third year, there is still no sign of progress on Ukraine’s most important funding stream — a $60-billion package of support from the United States.


Protests across Germany on Ukraine war anniversary

Updated 35 min 42 sec ago
Follow

Protests across Germany on Ukraine war anniversary

  • Rallies took place in Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt and other cities
  • In the capital, thousands gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate waving banners that read “stand up for Ukraine” and “arm Ukraine now”

BERLIN: Thousands of protesters rallied across Germany Saturday in support of Ukraine on the second anniversary of Moscow’s full-scale invasion, even as doubts grow about Kyiv’s chances of victory.
Rallies took place in Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt and other cities.
In the capital, thousands gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate waving banners that read “stand up for Ukraine” and “arm Ukraine now.”
Addressing the crowd, Berlin mayor Kai Wegner decried Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “brutal war of aggression.”
“He wants to wipe out Ukraine, he wants to wipe out the identities of Ukrainians,” he said.
“But we won’t let happen. We will stand by Ukraine’s side.”
He called on Berlin to deliver long-range Taurus missiles long sought by Kyiv, a demand that the German government has so far refused for fears they could also strike inside Russia.
Organizers said about 10,000 people took part in the rally. Police put the figure at around 5,000.
In a square in the historic heart of Frankfurt, about 1,000 people took part in a rally, according to police, where they heard calls from speakers to accelerate the delivery of weapons to Kyiv.
Ukraine’s armed forces have in recent times acknowledged facing frontline problems, pointing to a lack of Western aid, while Russian forces have been making gains.
“The West must do more to support Ukraine,” Achem Lobreuer, a 58-year-old engineer, told AFP at the rally.
This included delivering more armaments, but also “supporting negotiations,” he said.
“My message to Putin is that he must end this war.”
Maksym Godovnikov, a 38-year-old Ukrainian at the Frankfurt rally, also urged Ukraine’s allies to step up military support.
“If we have more weapons, we can protect ourselves and also win back land that was previously conquered,” he said.
Rallies were also taking place in other European capitals to mark the day Russia sent its troops into Ukraine, bringing war back to Europe for the first time in decades.
The anniversary comes as concerns grow in Europe about Ukraine’s faltering efforts to fend off Moscow.
According to a survey released last week, only 10 percent of Europeans believe Ukraine can defeat Russia on the battlefield.
The survey conducted last month across 12 EU countries showed that on average 20 percent of those asked believed Russia could win, and 37 percent thought the conflict would end in a compromise settlement.


Eiffel Tower to reopen Sunday as strike ends

Updated 42 min 8 sec ago
Follow

Eiffel Tower to reopen Sunday as strike ends

  • The stoppage since Monday at one of the world’s best-known tourist sites was the second within two months
  • The tower’s operator SETE said it had reached agreement with the unions on Saturday

PARIS: France’s Eiffel Tower that had been closed for five days by a strike will reopen Sunday after the monument’s management announced a deal had been struck with unions.
The stoppage since Monday at one of the world’s best-known tourist sites was the second within two months in protest at what unions say was insufficient investment.
The tower’s operator SETE said it had reached agreement with the unions on Saturday “under which the parties will regularly monitor the company’s business model, investment in works and revenue through a body that will meet every six months.”
With an aim to balance its books by 2025, both sides also agreed to see an investment of some 380 million euros up to 2031 toward works and maintenance of the tower, the statement said.
SETE extended apologies to visitors caught in the strike action, which resulted in the loss of some 100,000 admissions.
The Eiffel Tower booked a shortfall of around 120 million euros ($130 million) during the Covid pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
SETE has since received a recapitalization of 60 million euros, which unions say is insufficient given that major maintenance work is needed, including a fresh paint job.
Visitor numbers dropped sharply during Covid due to closures and travel restrictions, but recovered to 5.9 million in 2022 and 6.3 million last year.
The masterpiece by architect Gustave Eiffel has been repainted 19 times since it was built for the 1889 World Fair.


Yulia Navalnaya says Putin blocking body handover

Updated 24 February 2024
Follow

Yulia Navalnaya says Putin blocking body handover

  • “You tortured him alive, now you torture him while he is dead,” Yulia Navalnaya said in a new video
  • “Putin is directing it all. It’s Putin saying, ‘Put pressure on the mother, break her, tell her the body of her son is rotting’”

WARSAW: Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, accused President Vladimir Putin of “satanism” on Saturday for not allowing the body to be returned to his family.
Navalny’s mother Lyudmila has said authorities are threatening to bury him on the grounds of the Arctic prison colony where he died earlier this month if she did not agree to a “secret” funeral.
“You tortured him alive, now you torture him while he is dead,” Yulia Navalnaya, who has vowed to continue her husband’s work, said in a new video, published Saturday.
Russian authorities have said only that an investigation is ongoing and have previously criticized accusations from Navalnaya as “unfounded and vulgar.”
Navalnaya said on Saturday she believed the pressure being put on Navalny’s mother was coming directly from Putin.
“Putin is directing it all. It’s Putin saying, ‘Put pressure on the mother, break her, tell her the body of her son is rotting’,” she said.
“This is the same Putin that likes to show that he is a practicing Christian,” she said.
Putin has for decades portrayed himself as a devoted Orthodox Christian and has in recent years focused on promoting what he calls “traditional values.”
“What Putin is doing now is hatred. No, not even hatred, it’s some kind of satanism,” Navalnaya said.
“We always knew that Putin’s faith is fake, but now we can see it like never before,” she added.
On the anniversary of Russia launching its military offensive, the late Kremlin critic’s wife also denounced Putin’s decision to send troops into Ukraine.
“You will answer for all of this... And for this (Navalny’s death) and for the war that you unleashed two years ago, also hiding behind Christian values,” Navalnaya said.
“You are just killing. You are just killing sleeping people at night with missiles blessed by the church.”


Biden hails US lunar landing as space milestone

Updated 24 February 2024
Follow

Biden hails US lunar landing as space milestone

  • Biden called the landing “a thrilling step forward in a new era of space exploration”
  • “America does hard things. We rise to the great scientific challenges of our time”

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Saturday hailed the landing of a US spacecraft on the Moon as a historic achievement in space research led by the United States.
The uncrewed Odysseus lander, built by a private company and funded by NASA, landed near the lunar south pole Thursday, more than 50 years since the agency’s last Apollo 17 mission to Earth’s cosmic neighbor.
Biden called the landing “a thrilling step forward in a new era of space exploration” enabled by cooperation between the private and public sectors.
“It was made possible by American ingenuity, innovation, and curiosity,” he said in a statement. “America is leading the world back to the Moon.”
Odysseus, which is the size of a large golf cart, is likely lying sideways on the Moon’s surface as ground controllers work to download data and surface photos from the robot, its makers said.
Intuitive Machines initially said that its hexagonal spaceship was upright, but its CEO later said that announcement was based on misinterpreted data.
It appears that Odysseus caught a foot on the surface and tipped over, coming to rest horizontally with its top perched on a small rock — taking some shine off the accomplishment.
“America does hard things. We rise to the great scientific challenges of our time,” Biden’s statement said.
NASA paid Intuitive Machines $118 million to ship six experiments under an initiative that delegates cargo services to the private sector in a bid to achieve savings and stimulate a wider lunar economy.
The United States, along with international partners, wants to develop long-term habitats on the south pole, harvesting ice there for drinking water — and for rocket fuel for eventual onward voyages to Mars.