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Australian bushfires worry Samoan family

A Samoan family living in Australia has expressed concern about the bushfires catastrophe that has engulfed a number of Australian states and its impact on their health and safety.

Dave Tavita, who lives with his family in the Australian capital, Canberra, said a number of offices in the capital have shut their doors due to the poor air quality triggered by the inferno in neighbouring states New South Wales and Victoria.

“The air quality is not good here in Canberra because there is smoke everywhere,” he said, in response to questions by the Samoa Observer.

“We are safe from the fire but the air that we breathe is not good at all and that is what worries us.”

The Australian National University (A.N.U.) and Australia’s Department of Home of Affairs have shut due to the disaster. Flights at Canberra airport have either been diverted to other aerodromes in Australia or cancelled. 

The size of the bushfires in Australia are bigger than the Amazon forest fires last year and covers landmass larger than Europe, according to Mr. Tavita.

“Over the weekend, fire alarms at the apartment buildings across the street from me have been going off all weekend, because they can’t keep the smoke out of the buildings," he added.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison last weekend ordered the deployment of 3,000 Australian Defence Force’s army, navy and airforce reservists to bushfires-affected communities.

Mr Tavita said the reservists have been deployed to assist families in the affected areas, especially those on the east coast of Australia.

“I am affected because personally I traveled to Queensland over Christmas and New Years, but because of the bushfire flights and buses are delayed and cancelled," he said.

Turning to Australian politics and the criticisms that Mr Morrison faced in recent days over the bushfires, Mr Tavita said the actions of the PM showed he was out of touch with his constituency and under-estimated the impact of the bushfires and its link to climate change.

But the life-threatening work of the rural firefighters were not forgotten with Mr Tavita saying he is grateful that they continue to risk their lives, to ensure Australians are safe and protected from the bushfires. 

Australians continue to ask questions about the commitment and competency of Mr Morrison as Prime Minister during the disaster period after he flew to Hawaii for holidays with his family at the peak of the bushfires.

But an Australian, who asked to remain anonymous, said their P.M. is a big advocate of coal and was a major hurdle in negotiations at last year’s Pacific Islands Forum (P.I.F.) Leaders Summit as regional leaders tried to reach consensus on a climate change position.

“The bushfire happened and our Prime Minister was out of the country and rumours had it that he was on holiday in Hawaii,” he added.

“They say that the PM has been a big advocate of coal and has been a major problem at P.I.F. meetings for Australia’s lack of action on climate change.”

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