Two more bushfire deaths on Kangaroo Island, in remote South Australia, have brought the total number killed to 23 across Australia this fire season, with six people still missing in fire-affected regions across New South Wales and Victoria.
On Saturday, the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, announced his government would send Australia’s largest warship, HMAS Adelaide, to help evacuation efforts from towns on the Victorian coast cut-off by fires, compulsorily call up 3,000 army reservists to assist in fire recovery, and put $20m towards leasing four more water-bombing aircraft.
Morrison has faced criticism over his government’s inaction over the bushfires, some of which have been burning since September, and over his government’s climate change policies, criticised as unambitious and ineffective in reducing emissions.
Fanned by strong, changeable winds, temperatures above 40C and widespread drought conditions, some of the more than 200 fires are burning so powerfully they are forming their own weather systems, even causing lightning strikes sparking new blazes, through pyrocumulonimbus clouds.
The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, warned the state faced a “very volatile situation” and that “we are yet to hit the worst of it”. The state’s transport minister, Andrew Constance, defending his own home against ember attack, told ABC radio “this isn’t a bushfire, it’s an atomic bomb”.