SAF working with Australia to identify support options over bushfires: Australian PM

SAF working with Australia to identify support options over bushfires: Australian PM

A fire blazes across bush as seen from Mount Tomah in New South Wales
A fire blazes across bush as seen from Mount Tomah in New South Wales, Australia December 15, 2019 in this still image obtained from social media video. NSW RFS – TERRY HILLS BRIGADE/via REUTERS

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is working with their Australian counterparts to work out how they can help tackle the country's bushfire crisis.

At a press conference on Sunday (Jan 5), Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters the Australian Defence Force (ADF) was engaging with the SAF and the New Zealand Defence Force after offers of support from both countries.

READ: Rain brings brief respite in Australian bushfire crisis

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"The ADF is currently engaging with the New Zealand Defence Force and the Singapore Armed Forces to identify options for the kind offers of military support ... they have generously put forward," said the prime minister.

Papua New Guinea's prime minister has also made "similar offers" to him and this has been passed on to the ADF, added Mr Morrison.

Raging bushfires have killed more than 20 people across southeastern Australia.

More than 60,000 sq km have been burnt across the country in the months-long crisis. The bushfire season started earlier than normal this year following a three-year drought that has left much of the country's bushland tinder-dry and vulnerable to fires. 

Mr Morrison on Saturday issued an unprecedented call-up of army reservists to support firefighters.

The announcement faced criticism from the head of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, who said he had heard about the decision through local media, adding Mr Morrison had shown a lack of "fundamental professional courtesy".

READ: Firefighters hit out at Australia PM over bushfire response

On Sunday, the prime minister said the call-up was an unprecedented step taken as a consequence of the "sheer scale" of the disaster.

"That step was taken as a consequence of the sheer scale that had moved beyond what is the reasonable expectation of any agency or state or territory authority," he told reporters. "It is a statement of the scale of the need, not a statement of the response of any agencies up until that point in time."

Source: CNA/agencies/nc

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