Canberra: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday announced the allocation of AU$2 billion ($1.39 billion) to a bushfire recovery fund for rebuilding areas affected by the destructive blazes over the next two years.
The National Bushfire Recovery Fund, which will be led by former Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin, will be dedicated to helping rebuild houses and infrastructure damaged by the fires that have raged in the country since September 2019, reports Efe news.
“Whatever it takes, whatever it costs,” Morrison told reporters after meeting with his cabinet’s national security committee.
The prime minister said that the fund was independent of other already approved aid, underlining that it was an “initial” commitment which can be increased if necessary and if the damages go up.
“What we are focusing on here is the human cost and the rebuilding cost for people’s lives… ensuring we can do everything we can, as quickly as we can, to support that recovery effort,” he said.
The measure followed the deployment of 3,000 army reservists and an allocation of AU$20 million to lease four planes and other air measures announced by the leader on Saturday, at the end of one of the worst days in this wave of fires.
The fires, considered among the worst of the century in Australia, have caused 23 deaths (revised toll) and destroyed more than 1,500 homes since September – around half of them since the end of the year – and have burned almost six million hectares of land, equivalent to twice the area of Belgium.
Light rain in areas affected by bushfires in southeast Australia on Monday gave firefighters and affected communities some respite before temperatures are expected to return to around 40 degrees Celsius at the end of the week.
The blazes broke out before the beginning of summer in the southern hemisphere, which begins in December and where a shortage of rain is expected until the end of March.
The most serious fires seen in the country in recent decades occurred in February 2009 in the state of Victoria, leaving 173 dead and another 414 injured.