Sydney, Jan 8 (IANS) Australian authorities on Wednesday confirmed that the death toll due to the raging bushfires that have ravaged the country since September 2019, has increased to 26.

The toll reached 26 after firefighter Matt Kavanagh, 43, died wile on duty after a crash between two vehicles which police linked to the bushfires, Victoria’s Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said.

This is the third death in Victoria due to the fires, which have already caused 20 fatalities in New South Wales and three more in South Australia, reports Efe news.

The confirmation came as firefighters continued their struggle to control dozens of fires that have been raging in the country’s southeast as temperatures are expected to rise above 40 degrees Celsius at the end of the week.

On Tuesday, they took advantage of improved weather conditions to bolster preparations against the blazes that continue to burn in those areas.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, during a visit to Kangaroo Island told reporters that weather conditions were expected to worsen in the coming days.

Two people died on the island at the end of the year amid the still raging fires.

The fires have burned more than 50 houses and almost half of this tourist island, located some 112 km from Adelaide, home to 60,000 kangaroos, 50,000 koalas and other endangered animals who are suffering the catastrophe’s consequences.

The Insurance Council of Australia said Tuesday a total A$700 million ($485 million) of accumulated damages have been recorded since September, with nearly 9,000 fire-related claims.

Morrison, heavily criticized for his handling of the crisis, announced Monday a package of A$2 billion over the next two years to finance the recovery of affected areas.

The fires have razed more than 8 million hectares of land throughout the country, equivalent to the area of Austria, including some 2,000 homes.

They broke out before the beginning of summer in the southern hemisphere, which begins in December and where a shortage of rain is expected until the end of March.




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