Australian defense forces join battle to save lives from wildfires

Jan. 6 (UPI) — The Australian Defense Force have been integrated into evacuation efforts from the brushfires consuming the east coast of the country.

The Australian Navy is involved in evacuating residents of coastal communities after fires began on New Year’s Eve, military officials said Monday, as a variety of specialists from the ADF have started providing emergency support to other state authorities in need.

Navy ships, including the amphibious HMAS Choules and the training vessel MV Sycamore, were involved in rescuing and evacuating over 1,200 people stranded on beaches after they fled their homes.

The helicopter carrier HMAS Adelaide also deployed to Sydney to provide support in transferring firefighters by Army and Navy helicopter to fire sites.

At least 24 people have died in fires across a 300-mile area, and on Sunday the New South Wales Rural Fire Service warned that fire-generated thunderstorms were seen in portions of the country.

The ADF, as part of Operation Bushfire Assist, called out 3,000 of its reservists, opened bases along the eastern coast to civilians for temporary accommodation and is working with local emergency agencies to provide support, a statement from the Australian government said on Monday.

The militaries of Singapore and New Zealand have also provided support and personnel.

“Working with state authorities, Defense contacted 18 cut-off communities, flying in emergency food, water, fuel and medical supplies as required,” the statement said in part. “Eight communities were visited on January 5, with a further 10 visited on Jan. 6. The ADF is also working with VicForests [a government forestry agency in Victoria state] to plan assistance to open access to major roads.”

A water purification system will also be deployed to South Australia state to supplement damaged infrastructure.

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