World

Aussie firefighters finally gain upper hand over ‘megablaze’

SYDNEY: Exhausted firefighters said they had finally brought Australia's largest "megablaze" under control yesterday, as wet weather promised to deliver much-needed respite for a countryside ravaged by bushfires.

New South Wales (NSW) firefighters said they finally had the upper hand in the fight against the vast Gospers Mountain fire on Sydney's north-western outskirts, which has been burning for almost three months.

Visiting the area yesterday, NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said there was a "small area of burning still to complete" but the "containment prognosis looks promising".

The fire seared an area of national park three times the size of Greater London and lit several connected blazes totalling over 800,000ha.

The Bureau of Meteorology forecast some firegrounds areas could get up to 50mm of rain in the next week, a relief after a prolonged drought.

If that forecast bears out, the NSW Rural Fire Service said it would be "all of our Christmas, birthday, engagement, anniversary, wedding and graduation presents rolled into one".

Meanwhile, a poll released yesterday showed Prime Minister Scott Morrison's approval ratings have nosedived.

The Newspoll survey showed 59 per cent of Australian voters are dissatisfied with his performance overall, and only 37 per cent were satisfied.

Mr Morrison has been criticised heavily for his response to the crisis - which included going on holiday to Hawaii, making a series of gaffes and misleading statements and forcing angry victims to shake his hand.

In a separate development, thousands of people have signed a petition for koalas to be introduced to New Zealand to escape Australia's bush fires, but the proposal has been given the thumbs down by officials.

A group calling itself the Koala Relocation Society said koalas were "functionally extinct in Australia" but could thrive in New Zealand, which has nearly 30,000ha planted in euclypts.

As of midday yesterday, the online petition had 7,500 signatures, but a spokesman for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Television New Zealand that the government's focus was on helping to get the fires under control so koalas "can stay in their natural habitat". - AFP

WORLD