Australia called up 3,000 army reservists to help conduct evacuations and fight bushfires as a growing number of residents are endangered by the expanding blazes.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Saturday that the country was calling up the reservists as well as deploying three Navy ships and several planes and helicopters to help with operations surrounding the fires. Another $20 million would also be dedicated toward leasing four new firefighting planes, building on a $26 million commitment.
“We’re putting more Defense Force boots on the ground, more planes in the sky, more ships to sea, and more trucks to roll in to support the bushfire fighting effort and recovery as part of our co-ordinated response to these terrible #bushfires,” Morrison tweeted.
We’re putting more Defence Force boots on the ground, more planes in the sky, more ships to sea, and more trucks to roll in to support the bushfire fighting effort and recovery as part of our co-ordinated response to these terrible #bushfires pic.twitter.com/UiOeYB2jnv— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) January 4, 2020
Morrison’s latest move comes as severe weather in Australia exacerbates the growing wildfires.
Temperatures broke records Saturday, topping 120 degrees Fahrenheit outside of Sydney and 111 degrees in the capital of Canberra. Strong winds across the country also strengthened the more than 200 wildfires.
Approximately 23 people have been killed since the fires started months ago, including 12 in the last week.
Morrison has been criticized for his response to the fires, particularly after his decision to go on vacation in Hawaii after the blazes began.
The havoc wreaked by the fires have led to calls for Morrison to take more serious action to combat climate change.
“The best response I can provide to people who are feeling angry and isolated, people who are feeling afraid, is what I can do today,” Morrison said at a press conference in Canberra. “We’ll continue to take action on climate change.”