Australian Parliament remembers victims and heroes of fires

CANBERRA (AP) — Lawmakers commemorated wildfire victims and praised the heroism of firefighters when Australia’s Parliament sat yesterday as hundreds of protesters rallied outside demanding more policy action on climate change.

The usual business of Parliament was postponed on the first sitting day of the year with the focus instead on the wildfires that have killed at least 33 people and destroyed more than 3,000 homes since September.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison paid tribute to those who lost their lives, including three United States (US) airmen who died when their Hercules C-130 tanker crashed while fighting a blaze in southern New South Wales state last month.

Relatives of some of the nine firefighters who have died in this fire season were in a public gallery to hear lawmakers give their condolences. The US ambassador represented the airmen’s families.

Morrison, close to tears, vowed that despite the scale of the disaster and tragedies, “Australia is not and will never be overwhelmed.”

Protesters rally for action on climate change outside Parliament House in Canberra, Australia. PHOTO: AP