More New Zealand firefighters set to help fight Australian fires


Photo: Xinhua

WELLINGTON, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand will send 22 more firefighters to help fight the bushfires that are savaging neighboring Australia, announced New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Friday.

"The devastation caused by these fires is taking a substantial toll on our Australian neighbours and we will continue to do what we can to assist as they deal with this extremely dynamic, dangerous and ongoing situation," Ardern said in a statement.

Ardern had conveyed New Zealanders' condolences to Australians who have lost loved ones and sympathy to all affected. "It's simply devastating to see the scale of the loss," said Ardern.

A formal request for further assistance was made earlier this week and the extra personnel, including 20 firefighters, a strike team leader and a liaison officer, will help with front-line firefighting on two five-day rotations. They'll leave for Australia on January 8.

Since late October 2019, 157 New Zealanders have been deployed to assist with the Australian bushfires.

"These fires continue to be fought in some of the most challenging conditions ever and Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) and its partners are providing valuable assistance," New Zealand Minister for Internal Affairs Tracey Martin introduced the situation on Friday. "New Zealand Government will continue to monitor the situation closely and FENZ will remain in contact with Australian fire authorities to consider any further calls for support as needed."

Meanwhile, smoke from the Australian bushfires continues to drift across the Tasman Sea, turning Fox and Franz Josef glaciers in New Zealand's South Island into caramel brown and blocking out the sun in many places.