Australian waterbomber helicopter dwarfed by huge wildfire

Australian waterbomber helicopter dwarfed by huge wildfire
Rural Fire Service (RFS) crews engage in property protection of a number of homes along areas of Sydney, Australia, December 19, 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 19 December 2019

Australian waterbomber helicopter dwarfed by huge wildfire

Australian waterbomber helicopter dwarfed by huge wildfire
  • Three major blazes were burning around Sydney, blanketing the harbor city in ash and smoke
  • Temperatures soared above 45 degrees Celsius (113°F) in some areas of Sydney

SYDNEY: Firefighters battling huge bushfires in Australia used a waterbombing helicopter to try and douse a blaze on the outskirts of Sydney on Thursday, with aerial footage showing the aircraft dwarfed by thick black and grey billowing smoke.

Officials in New South Wales (NSW) state declared the second state-wide emergency in as many months on Thursday as more than 100 fires burned across the state, more than half of them uncontrolled.

Three major blazes were burning around Sydney, blanketing the harbor city in ash and smoke, as temperatures soared above 45 degrees Celsius (113°F) in some areas.

The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) posted footage on its official Twitter account of one of those fires, at Green Wattle Creek, around 80 km (50 miles) southeast of Sydney, as it jumped a railway line.

The short clip showed the waterbomber aircraft flying through the thick cloud to dump water on flames burning in bushland just meters from homes.

The RFS has warned people in high-danger areas to evacuate early as “there are simply not enough fire trucks for every house.”

“If you call for help, you may not get it,” the RFS said in an alert issued on Thursday. “Do not expect a fire truck. Do not expect a knock on the door. Do not expect a phone call.”

The state of emergency declared in NSW gives firefighters broad powers to control government resources, force evacuations, close roads and shut down utilities in a state that is home to more than 7 million people.


Afghan government, Taliban announce breakthrough deal to press on with peace talks

Updated 5 min 21 sec ago

Afghan government, Taliban announce breakthrough deal to press on with peace talks

Afghan government, Taliban announce breakthrough deal to press on with peace talks
  • The agreement lays out the way forward for further discussion
  • Taliban insurgents have refused to agree to a cease-fire during the preliminary stages of talks

KABUL: Afghan government and Taliban representatives said on Wednesday they had reached a preliminary deal to press on with peace talks, their first written agreement in 19 years of war.
The agreement lays out the way forward for further discussion but is considered a breakthrough because it will allow negotiators to move on to more substantive issues, including talks on a cease-fire.
“The procedure including its preamble of the negotiation has been finalized and from now on, the negotiation will begin on the agenda,” Nader Nadery, a member of the Afghan government’s negotiating team, told Reuters.
The Taliban spokesman confirmed the same on Twitter.
The agreement comes after months of discussions in Doha, the capital of Qatar, in negotiations encouraged by the United States. In Afghanistan, the two sides are still at war, with Taliban attacks on government forces continuing unabated.
Taliban insurgents have refused to agree to a cease-fire during the preliminary stages of talks, despite calls from Western capitals and global bodies, saying that that would be taken up only when the way forward for talks was agreed upon.
UN envoy for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons welcomed the “positive development” on Twitter, adding that “this breakthrough should be a springboard to reach the peace wanted by all Afghans.”
Last month, an agreement reached between Taliban and government negotiators was held up at the last minute after the insurgents balked at the document’s preamble because it mentioned the Afghan government by name.
The Taliban refused to refer to the Afghan negotiating team as representatives of the Afghan government, as they contest the legitimacy of the administration led by President Ashraf Ghani.