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Australia honors bushfire victims and firefighters

February 4, 2020

The "black summer" would not "overwhelm Australians," Prime Minister Scott Morrison has vowed. Outside parliament, hundreds of protesters demanded policies to combat climate change.

NSW Rural Fire Service via their twitter account, firefighters are seen as they try to protect homes around Charmhaven, New South Wales
Image: picture-allianceAP/Twitter@NSWRFS

Australia's parliament on Tuesday paid tribute to those who lost their lives and the valiant efforts of firefighters duringthe nation's devastating bushfires.

"As we face the challenges that remain active, as we confront and face the devastating drought compounded in so many places by these fires ... Australians will not be overwhelmed,'' Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

"These fires are yet to end and danger is still before us in many, many places, but today we gather together to mourn, honor, reflect and begin to learn from the Black Summer that continues," he added.

Read more: Australia: My country is burning

International efforts

Morrison also thanked the other countries that assisted Australian rescue services, including New Zealand, the United States, Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea, Singapore, Japan, Papua New Guinea and Fiji. 

Relatives of the nine firefighters who were killing battling the fires were present in the public gallery. The US ambassador to Canberra, Arthur Culvahouse, represented the families of two American airmen whose plane crashed while assisting in the emergency response.

At least 33 people and more than 500 million animals have been killed in the fires that have raged from late 2019 and have continuted into early 2020. Thousands of homes have been destroyed and 12 million hectares of land burned.

Saving the animals! Australia after the fires

Protests outside parliament

As Morrison led the commemoration, hundreds of protesters gathered outside demanding action on climate change and criticizing the prime minister's delayed response to the tragedy.

Morrison has faced public criticism for vacationing in Hawaii while citizens were fleeing for their lives. His stance on climate change and support for Australia's massive coal industry has drawn international reproach.

es/rt  (AP, dpa)

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