Aus army reservists begin bushfire emergency operations
Sydney, Jan 6: A contingent of 3,000 Australian army reservists were deployed on Monday to assist fire crews and emergency workers with evacuations and disaster recovery efforts, following a horror weekend of raging bushfires across the country.
Although bushfires are a regular occurrence in the country, the size and scale of this year’s wildfire has been unprecedented with at least 25 people dead, over 1,300 homes burnt and around 6.3 million hectares of vegetation destroyed, reports Xinhua news agency.
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has received a Call-Out Order of Reservists for the first time in the country’s history.
“The majority of Reservists who have been called outcome from the Australian Army’s 2nd Division, 4 Brigade, 5 Brigade, 6 Brigade, 9 Brigade, 17 Sustainment Brigade and the broader ADF community,” according to the ADF.
Announcing on Saturday that the volunteer fighting force would be involved in assistance operations, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “I have no doubt (the states) will have a long list of recovery tasks that they will be performing… rebuilding bridges, roads and other critical infrastructure and we will work hand in glove.”
Drawing on skills from professions such as engineering, medicine, logistics and transport, reservists will support state government agencies in New South Wales (NSW), Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.
“The priority for those involved will be to assist in ensuring the safety of life, support the evacuation of affected people, provide assistance to communities and support-managed evacuation centres,” the ADF said.
But as well as being handed routine tasks like clearing fire trails and bringing in supplies, Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie confirmed that army reservists will also be given the gruesome job of burying the thousands of livestock that have been killed by the bushfires.
According to the National Farmers’ Federation, it is estimated that around 100,000 sheep and cattle have died due to heat stress of smoke inhalation.
While a cool change has brought some temporary relief to many fire-hit communities on Monday, conditions are expected to worsen later in the week.