Officials order 250,000 in Victoria to evacuate as bushfires approach

Jan. 10 (UPI) — Victoria braced for more Australian bushfires Saturday after authorities urged 250,000 people to leave in advance of approaching flames.

More than 30 fires threatened homes in the state as the country’s summer of bushfires continued, burning millions of acres throughout Australia’s record-hot and dry summer since November.

Victoria’s Country Fire Authority issued a declaration for a state of disaster for East Gippsland Shire, Mansfield Shire, Wellington Shire, Wangaratta Rural Shire, Towong Shire and Alpine Shire through Saturday.

In the meantime, protests increased against Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Demonstrators Saturday demanded that Morrison do more to lessen the country’s dependence on fossil fuel and take more aggressive action against climate change. Protests took place in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

Morrison, who tried to overcome earlier criticism for vacationing in Hawaii during the current bushfire crisis, said Friday he called in the military to support firefighters.

“I’ve given them very clear instructions that they are to stand ready to move and support immediately,” Morrison said. “In the event that they are needed in the wake of what we hope we will not see today, but we must prepare for today.”

C-130 tanks dropped fire retardant around areas being approached by the bushfires while helicopters delivered supplies to municipalities that could be cut off because of the fires.

The bushfires continued to burn, helped by winds that reached 50 miles per hour and temperatures that rose to 104 on Friday.

The conservation organization WWF Australia said the loss of animals during the bushfires has been devastating, estimated at 1.25 billion, including koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, kookaburras, cockatoos and honeyeaters.

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