Abbott says goverment to pay 50% of wildfire rebuilding costs
Australian prime minister warns more people could die in New South Wales fires
Water flows from a broken tap at a home destroyed by bush fire in Winmalee, Australia. Photograph: Getty
Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has said the government will pick up half the costs of rebuilding in New South Wales after the devastating bushfire emergency - and has warned there could be more lives lost.
Speaking after a briefing at the Winmalee fire station yesterday the prime minister confirmed the standard disaster relief arrangements would apply in NSW, with Canberra “picking up at least 50per cent of the tab”.
Additional resources will also be available to the community through Centrelink, including a call centre for people affected by the fires.
The prime minister said it was too early to estimate the scale and cost of the rebuilding task, and he warned Australians to expect a dangerous fire season.
“It could be a long, hot, dry summer,” Mr Abbott said. “Over the last three months most areas of NSW have had above-average temperatures and below-average rainfalls.
“It’s projected that over the next three months most parts of NSW will similarly have above-average temperatures and below-average rainfalls.”
Mr Abbott thanked employers for allowing the community to rally for the volunteer services over the past 48 hours and he praised the police effort.
“We’ve had hundreds of police,” he said. “We’ve had hundreds of NSW fire brigade workers and we’ve had literally thousands of rural fire brigade volunteers and state emergency services volunteers out over the last 24 hours.”
“These are ordinary people who, on an extraordinary day, come together to support their community and to protect their fellow Australians. We are incredibly lucky to have them.
“We’re also lucky to have supportive employers and supportive families who allow their loved ones to go out and do this kind of work when it’s needed.”
Earlier, Mr Abbott expressed sorrow at the death of a 63-year-old man at Lake Munmorah, who was trying to save his home.
“There has already been loss of life. We fear more,” the prime minister said.
Mr Abbott’s comments were echoed by the opposition leader, Bill Shorten, who expressed sorrow about the death of the central coast man trying to defend his home. “Our thoughts are with him and his family,” he said.
Mr Shorten paid tribute to the authorities managing the bushfire emergency and its impact in NSW communities. He said the NSW police had a terrible task ahead.