Australia boosts emergency funding for bushfire-affected businesses

Clay Curtis
January 20, 2020

Recent rains have brought the number of fires burning across Australia's east and south coast to under 100 for the first time in weeks, easing a disaster that has scorched an area roughly one-third the size of Germany.

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Firefighters had taken advantage of the milder conditions to "slow the spread of fire and build containment lines ahead of increased fire dangers", the New South Wales Rural Fire Service said in a post on its Twitter account.

The government said the aid announced Sunday was "an initial push" to help the country's $ 152 billion tourism industry, an increasingly important part of Australia's economy, accounting for more than 3 per cent of annual economic output.

"We have allocated $ 76 million of this money so that the fire-affected community is the only person who can get new programs, organize new festivals, and make a new installation, whether it is art, he said", installations or other attractions that can help people to return to these communities during the reconstruction.

Fear of smoke from the fires blasting the Australian Open withdrew to Melbourne, where the first Grand Slam begins Monday, but the city and parts of the devastated Victoria were raining heavily.

According to the Australian Tourism Industry Council, the damage to the tourism industry already amounts A$1 billion and by the end of 2020, the damage fires will have cost Australia A$4.5 billion.

More than 780,000 fans attended Australia's two-week run a year ago, according to figures from the prime minister's office, providing a huge cash flow for Victoria's economy.

In a statement, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the federal government's response to the bushfires is comprehensive and unprecedented.

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"One in thirteen Australian jobs rely on tourism and hospitality so our $76 million investment is an urgent injection to help all those hotels, restaurants and cafes and tour operators get back on their feet", he says.

The aftermath of the wildfires that hit Seaton, Australia years back can be seen in this Friday, January 18, 2013 file photo.

The bulk of the money - $25 million - will fund an worldwide campaign to reinforce to global audiences that Australia is safe after U.S. travellers were warned off visiting Australia due to the catastrophic Australian bushfires and air quality.

In South Australia, tourist spending is down by more than $100 million with bookings for global tourists dropping by over 60 per cent.

About 80% of the Greater Blue Mountains that are on the World Heritage List of protected designations have been lost to the bush fires, Australian media reported.

According to reports, there are still 69 bushfires that active in New South Wales and one-third of them are still uncontained.

Forecasters have warned of severe storms in Australia's fire-hit state of Victoria, which could lead to flooding.

The severe rains have caused major highways in Queensland to close down while New South Wales has been experiencing power cuts.

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