Australia commits billions to wildfire recovery

SYDNEY (AP) — Australia’s government yesterday said it was willing to pay “whatever it takes” to help communities recover from deadly wildfires that have ravaged the country.

Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government was committing an extra AUSD2 billion toward the recovery effort in addition to the tens of millions of dollars that have already been promised.

“The fires are still burning. And they’ll be burning for months to come,” Morrison said. “And so that’s why I outlined today that this is an initial, an additional, investment of AUSD2 billion. If more is needed and the cost is higher, then more will be provided.”

Morrison’s announcement of the funds, which will go toward rebuilding towns and infrastructure destroyed by the fires, came as authorities said two more people were missing in remote parts of New South Wales. Nationwide, at least 24 people have been killed and 2,000 homes destroyed by the blazes.

Rain and cooler temperatures yesterday were bringing some relief to communities battling the fires. But the rain was also making it challenging for fire crews to complete strategic burns.

“With the more benign weather conditions it presents some relief for everybody, the firefighters, the emergency services personnel, but also the communities affected by these fires,” Commissioner of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters. “But it also presents some real challenges when it comes to implementing tactical and strategic back-burns and other techniques to try and bring these fires under control.”