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Australia fires: Strong winds hamper efforts to control flames

January 5, 2020 7:36 am

Strong winds that have changed direction are hampering efforts by firefighters to contain bushfires in Australia’s south-east.

A southerly change with powerful gusts up to 80mph (128km/h) threatened to spread huge fires raging in New South Wales (NSW), officials said.

In the neighboring state of Victoria, army helicopters have been deployed to evacuate people trapped by the flames.

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Since September, fires in Australia have killed at least 23 people.

More than 1,200 homes have been destroyed and millions of hectares of land scorched. Although much attention has centered on worst-hit NSW, every state and territory has been affected.

On Saturday, NSW fire commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons warned of “volatile” conditions to come.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has been harshly criticized for his handling of the emergency, has announced the deployment of 3,000 reserve troops to help the fire-fighting effort.

On Saturday he came under fire again for posting an advert on Twitter showing how the government was responding to the crisis, accompanied by an upbeat backing track.

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