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Australia PM pledges ‘whatever support’ needed as wild fires destroy many homes

SYDNEY — Australia’s Prime Minister  (PM) Anthony Albanese pledged on Sunday to provide whatever support was needed to assist Victoria state in a days-long wildfire emergency that has razed homes after authorities warned extreme heat could fan the blazes this week.

“We will provide whatever support is requested from Victoria,” Mr. Albanese told reporters in the city of Frankston, Victoria, according to a transcript.

“It’s a reminder of the need for us to be vigilant for us to continue to work and act on the threat that is climate change.”

The emergency has killed livestock, destroyed six homes and forced more than 2,000 people to leave western towns and head to the city of Ballarat, 95 km (60 miles) west of the state capital, Melbourne.

Australia is in the grips of an El Niño weather pattern, which is typically associated with extreme phenomena such as wildfires, cyclones and droughts.

More than 15 bushfires were burning in Victoria on Sunday, with the most serious blaze, ranked at the second highest danger rating, near several remote towns, according to the state’s emergency authority.

State authorities have said there are concerns about the weather this week particularly Wednesday into Thursday when extreme heat is forecast that could further fan the fires.

Around 1,000 firefighters supported by more than 50 aircraft have battled the fires since they started. The last two bushfire seasons in Australia have been subdued compared with the 2019-2020 “Black Summer,” when bushfires destroyed an area the size of Turkey, killing 33 people and an estimated 3 billion animals. — Reuters

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