Sunday, February 15, 2009

Foreign help arrives in Australia

Firefighters from at least three countries have arrived in Australia to assist in controlling the worst conflagration of wildfires the locals have seen in many years. A group of 60 from the United States arrived at Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport on Sunday. Two Canadians from British Columbia have been in Australia since last week working with fire managers there to determine how B.C. firefighters could assist. As a result, nine B.C. fire personnel will leave for Australia on Tuesday.

A contingent of 51 national rural fire officers from New Zealand arrived on Friday on an 18-day assignment. Shortly after the fires started, Tasmania, a very large island off the southeast coast of Australia, sent 90 firefighters and 29 fire trucks across the sea to help their mainland brothers and sisters.

Six forensic pathologists from Indonesia's Disaster Victim Investigation team, who gained experience following their 2004 tsunami, arrived on Sunday to assist in the identification of bodies.

The United States and Australia signed a mutual aid agreement in 2001. Since then, the U.S. has sent firefighters to Australia in 2003 and 2007. Australia sent firefighters to the U.S. in 2002, 2003, 2006, and 2008.

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