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Death toll in Australia bushfires rises to four

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The death toll from devastating bushfires in eastern Australia has risen to four after a man's body was discovered in a scorched area of bushland, police said Thursday, AFP reported.

Three others have perished in bushfires in New South Wales, the state worst affected by a series of catastrophic fires that broke out along the eastern seaboard late last week.

Residents found the body — believed to be a 58-year-old man last seen on Friday — near the New South Wales town of Kempsey, one of several areas hit by the fires in recent days.

More than 100 blazes were burning on Thursday but a respite from tough conditions has seen the danger from many fires downgraded and residents returning to sift through the remains of their homes.

Hundreds of houses have already been damaged or destroyed and more than one million hectares (2.5 million acres) of land burnt in the blazes.

Challenging conditions were expected to flare again in Queensland and New South Wales at the weekend as the temperature rises and winds pick up, and many blazes are still proving difficult to contain.

In Burrell Creek, dozens of firefighters were preparing to battle an out-of-control bushfire that has so far engulfed 24,000 hectares from the coastal town of Old Bar inland to Hillville in northern New South Wales.

Native wildlife has also been badly hit by the bushfires, with conservationists estimating that hundreds of koalas have perished.

As many as 350 koalas died in a single nature reserve near Port Macquarie alone, raising fears for the future of the creature in the area.

Nick Boyle, of Taronga Conservation Society, said "our hearts are breaking" not only for the victims but also for the "defenceless wildlife" that had been killed by the state's "earliest and worst" bushfire season.

"Pressures on the koala were already compounding," he said, citing habitat loss and non-native predators. "And now this."

Bushfire-prone Australia is experiencing a horrific start to its fire season, which scientists say is being exacerbated by climate change.

The Bureau of Meteorology says human-caused climate change is increasing the "frequency and severity" of dangerous bushfire conditions by raising temperatures, sapping moisture from the environment and causing an earlier and more extreme fire season.

The bushfires have created mounting pressure on the conservative government to curb fossil fuels and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Australia's leaders, ever-conscious of the country's economic reliance on mining exports, have been steadfastly ignoring those calls.

News.Az

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Azerbaijan

Magnitude 56 earthquake strikes Western Turkey

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A 5.6 magnitude earthquake hit eastern Turkey on Wednesday, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), APA reports.

The earthquake took place about 15 kilometers east of Kirkagac, a town in the Aegean region of Turkey.

The quake was at a depth of around 8.6 kilometers.

According to some reports, this earthquake was the fourth one felt in Western Turkey in the last five hours.

"I'm a native-born Texan living in Turkey. This was my first real earthquake experience that wasn't a minor tremor. The whole apartment building rumbled, all the light fixtures shook, and things rattled around, even my cats were freaked out and hid. There was a noticeable aftershock, but it was minor," one witness said. News.Az

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Azerbaijan

Five French tourists missing after deadly Quebec snowmobile accident

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A tour guide died and five French tourists were missing after a group of snowmobilers plunged through the ice into the water near Québec’s Lac-Saint-Jean Tuesday night, police said.

Eight French snowmobilers, along with their guide, were hiking near St-Henri-de-Taillon when the accident happened, police said on Twitter on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Three tourists were being treated for shock in a hospital in Alma, media reported. Their guide, a man in his forties, was recovered from the water by firefighters and taken to a hospital but died Wednesday morning. Five tourists were missing.

The Lac-Saint-Jean region is popular with tourists during the winter. According to the Montreal Gazette, 20 people were killed in snowmobile accidents between 2010 and 2019 while visiting Quebec, including six tourists from France.

Most of the victims died after losing control of their snowmobiles on marked trails, the paper said.

Police said a search was underway for the five tourists.

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Chinas Wuhan shuts down transport as global alarm mounts over virus spread

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Deaths from China’s new flu-like virus rose to 17 on Wednesday, with more than 540 cases confirmed, leading the city at the center of the outbreak to close transport networks and urge citizens not to leave as fears rose of the contagion spreading, Reuters reports.

The previously unknown coronavirus strain is believed to have emerged from an animal market in the central city of Wuhan, and is suspected by Chinese officials to originate from illegally traded wildlife. Cases have been detected as far away as the United States.

Contrasting with its secrecy over the 2002-03 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed nearly 800 people, China’s communist government has this time given regular updates to try to avoid panic as millions travel for the Lunar New Year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been meeting in a high-tech room at its Geneva headquarters to decide whether the outbreak is a global health emergency.

Wuhan’s local government will close all urban transport networks and suspend outgoing flights from the city as of 10 a.m. on Jan. 23 (0200 GMT), state media reported. The government said citizens should not leave the city unless there were special circumstances.

The measure was intended to “effectively cut off the transmission of the virus, resolutely curb the spread of the epidemic, and ensure the health and safety of the people,” state media cited Wuhan’s virus taskforce as saying.

With more than 11 million people, Wuhan is central China’s main industrial and commercial center and a transport hub, home to the country’s largest inland port and gateway to its Three Gorges hydroelectric dam. News.Az

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