Australia fire: Britain stands 'ready to help' as foreign secretary Dominic Raab offers UK aid
FOREIGN secretary Dominic Raab has reached out to the Australian government to see how Britain can help the fire-ravaged nation tackle its bush blaze crisis.
Mr Raab has been in discussion with his opposite number, Australian foreign affairs minister Marise Payne, over the disaster, as the Foreign Office declared Britain stood ‘ready to help’.
Pressure has been ramping up on Whitehall to offer aid in a bid to combat the deadly inferno, which has devastated huge swathes of the country.
The head of Hampshire Fire Brigades Union, Mark Chapman, yesterday slammed the government for failing to act sooner.
It comes as an army of 600 UK firefighters joined a campaign offering their expertise to relieve their exhausted colleagues in Australia.
Following the calls for action, a spokesman from the Foreign Office told The News: ‘We praise the heroism and professionalism of Australia’s emergency services and stand ready to help in whatever way we can.’
Deadly infernos have killed at least 24 people since breaking out in September.
A staggering 500 million animals are estimated to have been killed in the infernos.
So far, bushfires have engulfed about six million hectares – an area almost three times the size of Wales.
The ferocious conditions have destroyed at least 2,000 homes and prompted the Australian government to mobilise the military to help battle the fire and evacuate stranded civilians.
Speaking to The News previously, veteran firefighter Mr Chapman said teams of men and women across Hampshire were ready and willing to help.
He added: ‘Australia is facing an unprecedented challenge fighting fires on a scale that has never been seen before.
‘The response from UK firefighters has been phenomenal. There has been no hesitation in firefighters stepping forward, evidenced by over 600 agreeing to volunteer within 48 hours.’
Portsmouth North MP and former international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt, is understood to have been lobbying for Britain to take action.
Speaking previously, the MP insisted that if the UK could help ‘it must’.
The Foreign Office added the the High Commission and consulates general were ‘in close touch with Australian authorities at federal and state level’.