Britain's royal family sends messages of support to fire-ravaged Australia

In a file photo taken on June 4, 2019, Queen Elizabeth II meets Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his wife Jennifer during a private audience at Buckingham Palace, in London.
In a file photo taken on June 4, 2019, Queen Elizabeth II meets Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his wife Jennifer during a private audience at Buckingham Palace, in London.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Britain's Queen Elizabeth joined grandsons William and Harry on Saturday (Jan 4) in expressing shock at the bush fires ravaging Australia, and sent her thanks to the firefighters who risked their lives to save others.

In separate statements from the three royal households, the family sent messages of condolences and support to "all Australians".

"My thanks go out to the emergency services, and those who put their own lives in danger to help communities in need," Queen Elizabeth, who is Australia's head of state, said in a statement. "Prince Philip and I send our thoughts and prayers to all Australians at this difficult time."

Prince William, son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, and his wife Kate said they had been shocked and saddened by the wildfires, while brother Harry and his wife Meghan sent messages of support and fund-raising links on Instagram.

"This global environmental crisis has now been described as Ecocide," Harry and Meghan said. "It's easy to feel helpless, but there's always a way to help."

The bush fires burned dangerously out of control on Australia's east coast on Saturday, fanned by high temperatures and strong winds that battered exhausted firefighters as they fought to save lives and property.

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said the conditions were deteriorating rapidly as a change in wind conditions merged several large fire fronts.

The federal government has announced an unprecedented call-up of army reservists to support firefighters and has deployed additional resources, including a third navy ship equipped for disaster and humanitarian relief.

"We send our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who have tragically lost their lives, and the brave firemen who continue to risk their own lives to save the lives of others," said William, the second in line to the throne.

The message from the 93-year-old monarch was sent to the Governor General of Australia - her representative in the country - and to the governors of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. It was also sent to "all Australians".

Our thoughts and prayers are with those across Australia who are continuing to face the devastating fires that have been raging for months. From areas we are personally connected to such as the communities and people we visited in New South Wales in 2018, to the fires in California and parts of Africa, we are struck by the increasingly overlapping presence of these environmental disasters, including of course the destruction of the Amazon which continues. This global environmental crisis has now been described as Ecocide. It’s easy to feel helpless, but there’s always a way to help. To find out how you can lend your support, please see the links below to help as we have. https://fundraise.redcross.org.au/drr (@redcrossau) https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/about-us/fundraising (@nswrfs) https://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/about/supporting-cfa#donate-cfa Photo © @nswrfs / @dale_appleton / Jay Elai