WWhile the big fireworks were lit in New Year in Sydney, fear, despair and anger prevailed in many parts of Australia. Because on the last day of the year the fires had raged like never before. The gap between large sections of the population and climate activists on the one hand and the government on the other is widening: On Wednesday, New Year’s Day, Prime Minister Scott Morrison had his picture taken at Kirribilli House, his official villa in Sydney, among successful cricket players , The previous evening he celebrated here with friends and a view of the fireworks. More than a quarter of a million citizens petitioned to cancel the world-famous spectacle and donate the money to the victims of the fires. Morrison’s behavior continues to fuel the mood: more and more Australians accuse the man who won the election in May by giving the “quiet Australian” a voice to completely underestimate the catastrophe, or even ignore it.
Not only the more than 3000 volunteer firefighters are now fighting the inferno and its aftermath. This Thursday, Friday at the latest, two Navy landing craft are expected to bring water and food to those trapped on the beaches of coastal towns in the states of Victoria and New South Wales. Military helicopters, but also a Norwegian ship and Esso oil company helicopters brought injuries out of the coastal town of Mallacoota on Wednesday, which had been overrun by a fire roller on Tuesday. A police boat brought water and diesel for generators.
In the meantime, a total area of more than four million hectares – larger than the Netherlands – fell victim to the fires in Australia. Thousands of people are trapped in numerous villages because highways such as the Princess Highway and numerous country roads are closed. The death toll has risen to at least 18, including a third young fireman. His fire truck was thrown into the air by a fire tornado. At least seven people have lost their lives in the fire rollers alone since Monday, and more are still missing.
Government warns of toxic air
In Mallacoota, around 3,000 holidaymakers and the more than a thousand residents had saved themselves on the beach in last need. Also south of Batemans Bay, a holiday resort important for the capital Canberra, hundreds fled to the beach to escape the flames. People, horses and dogs gathered in the flame over Malua Beach. Many breathing masks were worn against the acrid smoke that also hangs over the capital, which is an hour and a half away by car. While Morrison enjoyed relatively good weather in Sydney, the air values in the capital sank on New Year’s Day to the worst level since time immemorial: the view was only around a hundred meters, and the acrid smoke of the forest fires in the surrounding area also hung in restaurants and cinemas. The government warned of “toxic air” with a particulate pollution of almost 5000 micrograms per cubic meter of air – the highest category “toxic” applies above a concentration of 200.