Australian firefighter dies battling blazes, raising death toll to 28

The sails of the Sydney Opera House are lit with a series of images to show support for the communities affected by the bush fires and to express the gratitude to the emergency services and volunteers, on Jan 11, 2020.
PHOTO: AFP

MELBOURNE - A firefighter died while on duty on Saturday (Jan 11) in Australia's state of Victoria, raising the toll from this season's devastating bush fires to 28 deaths as the government deploys mental health services to aid those in affected areas.

"It is with great sadness that we confirm that a... firefighter from Parks Victoria has been involved in an incident while working on a fire in the Omeo area resulting in a fatality," Forest Fire Management Victoria Chief Fire Officer Chris Hardman said in a statement.

Since October, thousands of Australians have been subjected to repeat evacuations as huge and unpredictable fires scorched more than 10.3 million hectares, an area roughly the size of South Korea.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has been heavily criticised by the opposition and environmental groups for his handling of the bush fires and his stance on climate change, was set to address the crisis on Sunday morning on ABC News television.

Meanwhile, his office released a statement saying that more mental health services will be provided for those affected by the fires.

"We need to ensure the trauma and mental health needs of our people are supported in a way like we never have before," Morrison was cited as saying.