A firefighter has lost his life while battling a bush fire in Australia’s south-eastern state of Victoria, authorities have said, bringing the total number of people who died across the country in this fire season since September to at least 27.
The Forest Fire Management Victoria firefighter, who had 40 years of experience, was killed while battling a blaze in the Omeo area on Saturday, his boss Chris Hardman told reporters on Sunday.
Milder weather conditions, including cooler temperatures, rain, and less strong winds, have given some respite to fatigued firefighters since Saturday in both Victoria and in New South Wales (NSW).
A message of hope paying tribute to the firefighters was projected onto the sails of the Sydney Opera House on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Sunday he accepts climate change was impacting on longer, hotter and drier summer seasons and also hinted at changing policy to reduce emissions.
Morrison has been criticized harshly for his handling of the fire crisis, including going on a Hawaiian holiday and downplaying the link between climate change and the devastating bush fires.
In hindsight, he would not have taken the family holiday, Morrison told Australian broadcaster ABC on Sunday, admitting he “could have handled on the ground much better.”
“These are sensitive, emotional environments… Prime ministers are flesh and blood too in how they engage with these people.”
The scale of the fires was “unprecedented” and people have a “new expectation” how the government handles such a situation, he said.
Morrison’s comments come just two days after tens of thousands of people took to the streets of all major cities across Australia, urging his resignation over the handling of the bush fire crisis, dpa/NAN reported.