Roundup: Rain brings relief from South Australian bushfires after brutal night

Source: Xinhua| 2020-01-10 10:39:06|Editor: yhy
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CANBERRA, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- Firefighters are continuing to battle out of control bushfires on Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia (SA).

Authorities on Thursday issued two emergency warnings for Kangaroo Island (KI) after fires that have been burning since December were exacerbated by catastrophic conditions.

Rain on Friday morning delivered much-needed relief for firefighters after a night that Country Fire Service (CFS) Incident Controller Ian Tanner described as "brutal."

"Essentially everybody that's here working on this fire, not only have they had a big day yesterday and done their best, but they've had disrupted sleep last night," he told reporters on Friday.

Two people, a father and son, have died and more than a third of the island has burned in fires since December.

Addressing the bushfire crisis that has devastated much of the island, Kangaroo Island Mayor Michael Pengilly on Thursday called for forestry to be "forbidden" on the island going forward, describing the practice as "a categorical disaster."

"These blue gum plantations and pine plantations have made it almost impossible to control fires when they come out of parks, because they just act like giant wicks that drag it through and then we can't get on top of them," he told News Corp Australia.

"I want to see forestry written off the agenda on Kangaroo Island."

More than 800 properties on the island were without electricity on Friday morning as the result of a fire-related outage.

Grave fears are still held for the island's diverse wildlife.

Approximately 25,000 koalas, half the island's population, are feared dead.

Despite being told to evacuate Sam Mitchell, the owner of the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park, and his family remained behind on Thursday to protect the property and its 700 animals, including koalas injured in other blazes.

Fears are also held for hives of the island's Ligurian bees, which produce honey that is exported around the world.

Island Beehive, the island's biggest honey producer, has lost almost half of its hives to the fires.

"We are trying to rescue everything we can to preserve what stocks (of Ligurian bees) we have got left so we can try to rebuild," head apiarist Mark Harte said.

"We have been looking after these bees for many years and it is just heartbreaking."

The air quality in Adelaide, the capital of SA, on Friday morning was the 11th worst of any city in the world after smoke drifted from Kangaroo Island to the mainland.

Smoke blanketing much of the state prompted SA Health to warn that it "could pose a serious threat to health, particularly for vulnerable people with lung or heart conditions."

"People should keep windows and doors shut and ventilate the house once the smoke clears," Nicola Spurrier, the state's chief public health officer, said.