Australian crews race to contain blazes as damage bill soars

Australian crews race to contain blazes as damage bill soars

The U.S. offer follows Morrison committing more than $1.4 billion over the next two years to aid with recovery efforts from the bushfires.

"It's a long road ahead and we will be with these communities every step of the way as they rebuild", he said. "That's why I outlined that this is an initial, an additional, investment of AUS$2bn".

"Unfortunately, overnight, it became clear that we have two missing persons in New South Wales", he said at a press conference, adding that he still hoped some good news would come up about them.

Police found the body yesterday between the property and a auto, both of which had been destroyed by fire.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended his leadership and his government's record on climate change Sunday as milder temperatures brought hope of a respite from wildfires that have ravaged three states, claiming 24 lives and destroying nearly 2,000 homes.

Fire season in Australia normally peaks in January and February, and runs until March, when rain and cooler temperatures arrive.

More than 180 people have been arrested for deliberately starting fires in Australia during its devastating bushfire season, according to a report Tuesday. "They are trying to secure fire lines where they can, to try and minimize where these fires will burn again when conditions do warm up". Record temperatures have occurred regularly over the last three months with the country's hottest day ever, an average 41.9C, recorded on December 18.

Former Secretary of State Julie Bishop says Australia must take a global lead on climate change in response to the bushfire crisis.

The size of the fires across the country are twice as large as the state of Maryland and bigger than several other states, including Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

"What about the people who are dead, prime minister?" one woman asked.

A combination of record-breaking heat, record-breaking drought, lightning strikes, high wind conditions, and arson ignited unprecedented raging fires across New South Wales (NSW) and southeast Australia.

It is estimated that between 500 million and one billion animals - including koalas and kangaroos - have been killed. Military aircraft and ships have been assisting with evacuations of residents and with providing supplies and relief.

But by Monday there were no emergency warnings, following the weather change.

The environmental group Greenpeace said the relief funds announced by Morrison were "a drop in the ocean", given the widespread devastation from the fires. And hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes across the country.

Authorities said the number of people calling for urgent medical care in Victoria jumped 51% on Monday as hazardous smoke covered the state.

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