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What we know today, Monday January 11


Welcome to your serving of the day’s breaking news from South Australia, the nation and abroad.

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Fire burning out of control in state’s South East

Firefighters are battling a large out-of-control bushfire at Blackford in the state’s South East, with authorities warning residents in its path it’s now too late to leave and saying property and livestock will be lost.

The Country Fire Service this afternoon issued an emergency warning for Lucindale, Avenue Range, Woolumbool and Stewarts Range, in the Lower South East of South Australia, saying “you are in danger” and advising residents to take shelter in a solid building.

As at 5pm today, nearly 12,000 hectares had been burnt in the Blackford fire, which started earlier in the afternoon and has been burning under extreme weather conditions.

“Do not leave or enter this area in a vehicle or on foot,” the CFS warned.

“It is too late to leave as the roads will not be safe. Conditions are dangerous and firefighters are now unable to prevent the fire spreading.

“Shelter before the fire arrives as heat can kill you well before the flames reach you.”

The CFS says the grass fire is burning in an easterly direction towards Corbins Lane, Brooklyn Road and Woolumbool Road at Lucindale, Tresant Road, Marona Downs Road, Fairview Road and Stewarts Range Road at Stewarts Range. Conditions are continually changing.

A CFS spokesman said “there will be properties lost”.

“There will be damage to property in that area and also livestock lost,” he said.

The CFS says 30 fire units are in the area supported by farm firefighting equipment, six water-bombing aircraft and four observation planes.

It says the fire is being fanned towards Lucindale by strong winds and numerous structures are at risk along with the lives of anyone in the emergency area.

The Lucindale Council said the town hall would be open for anyone enacting their bushfire safety plan to take shelter.

A watch and act message was initially declared for the town but has since been upgraded to an emergency warning.

The blaze comes amid dangerous conditions across much of SA today, with very high temperatures and rising winds.

Fire crews were on standby across the state with command centres established and water-bombing aircraft prepared.

By early afternoon Adelaide had climbed past its forecast top temperature of 37C with a high of 38.3C, while in regional centres the mercury soared into the low 40s.

One new COVID-19 case in SA

There has been one new case of COVID-19 in South Australia today – a child who recently returned from overseas and has been in a medi-hotel since.

It brings the total number of active cases in the state to 15 – all overseas acquired.

There have now been a total of 588 cases in SA.

SA Health says it’s continuing to monitor the virus in other states and is reminding anyone with symptoms to get tested.

Five new COVID cases in NSW

NSW has recorded five new local COVID-19 cases, including a man in his 40s who sought medical treatment at a western Sydney hospital emergency department and was duly diagnosed with the virus.

Three new locally-acquired cases were recorded in NSW in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday, all three of which connected to the 26-person Berala cluster.

Another two cases were confirmed after the 8pm cut-off – a man who presented at Mount Druitt Hospital on Saturday with respiratory illness along with one of his household contacts.

The man was subsequently confirmed positive and transferred to Westmead Hospital for treatment, while Mount Druitt Hospital’s emergency department has been deep cleaned and will reopen later today.

“Investigations are underway to assess potential close contacts, including staff and patients,” Western Sydney Local Health District said in a statement.

“Anyone determined to be at risk of possible exposure is being contacted by the Public Health Unit and health advice provided.”

The potential exposure incident comes as NSW continues to “mop up” from two outbreaks in Greater Sydney.

The 24-hour tally of three positive people came from more than 18,500 tests, prompting fresh calls from NSW authorities for an uptick in testing.

“NSW under the circumstances is doing relatively well but we are in the phase of mopping up, we are in the phase of really trying to identify any community transmission,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.

“(We want) to make sure that any chains which exist in the community which we hadn’t picked up before have been and are being picked up.

“The case regarding the patient at Mount Druitt emergency department is still under investigation, so there’s no direct link yet.”

Thousands of residents from the northern part of Sydney’s northern beaches celebrated “Freedom Day” on Sunday, having been let out of lockdown.

Victoria and Queensland recorded no new locally acquired cases today.

Brisbane lockdown to end tonight

Greater Brisbane’s coronavirus lockdown will end tonight, but face masks will remain mandatory for 10 more days.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says residents of the council areas of Brisbane, Logan, Ipswich, Moreton Bay and Redlands will be able to leave their homes for any reason from 6pm Monday.

The three-day lockdown in the region seems to have suppressed the highly contagious UK strain of COVID-19.

“Can I thank people in the greater Brisbane region for responding in the way that they did? It has been absolutely truly remarkable,” Palaszczuk told reporters on Monday.

“So, I can announce that the reward for their sacrifice is that we are able to end our lockdown.”

Queensland had been on high alert after a cleaner at one of Brisbane’s quarantine hotels was initially diagnosed with the UK virus strain.

The highly contagious variant has potentially been active in the community since January 2 but no further locally acquired cases have been detected, so far.

People living in the greater Brisbane region will need to continue carrying and wearing facemasks over the next 10 days, the premier said.

People have to wear masks in supermarkets, shops, indoor markets, hospitals and aged care facilities, places of worship, libraries, indoor recreational facilities, such as cinemas and art galleries, and gyms.

However, people working in places where they can socially-distance do not have to wear masks.

“You’ll have to carry a face mask with you at all times. This is not dissimilar to what has happened in other jurisdiction,” she added.

Pelosi outlines Trump impeachment plan

US Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the House will proceed with legislation to impeach President Donald Trump unless the vice president and Cabinet invoke constitutional authority to force him out, calling Trump a threat to democracy.

Pelosi made the announcement in a letter to colleagues, framing it as an ultimatum to Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the powers of the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

If not, she said, the House would proceed with impeachment. Trump could become the only president to be impeached twice.

“In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both,” she said.

“The horror of the ongoing assault on our democracy perpetrated by this President is intensified and so is the immediate need for action.”

Pelosi’s plan seeks a vote on Monday on a resolution calling on Pence and Cabinet officials to invoke the 25th Amendment. If it were to pass, Pence and the Cabinet would have 24 hours to act before the House would move toward impeachment.

House Democrats were expected to introduce articles of impeachment on Monday. The strategy would be to condemn the president’s actions swiftly but delay an impeachment trial in the Senate for 100 days. That would allow President-elect Joe Biden to focus on other priorities as soon as he is inaugurated on January 20.

With impeachment planning intensifying, two Republican senators said they want Trump to resign immediately in the wake of deadly riots at the Capitol.

There’s alarm at the risk of more unrest ahead of the inauguration after the president whipped up the mob that stormed the Capitol, sent lawmakers into hiding and left five dead.

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania on Sunday joined Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in calling for Trump to “resign and go away as soon as possible.”

“I think the president has disqualified himself from ever, certainly, serving in office again,” Toomey said. “I don’t think he is electable in any way.”

Meanwhile, former Californian Governor and Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger has denounced the attack on the US Capitol, calling Donald Trump the “worst president ever”.

Schwarzenegger compared Wednesday’s events to Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, the 1938 event that marked the rise of Nazi Germany.

“I grew up in Austria. I’m very aware of Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass,” Schwarzenegger said in a seven-minute video posted to Twitter.

“It was a night of rampage against the Jews carried out in 1938 by the Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys.

“Wednesday was the Day of Broken Glass right here in the United States. The broken glass was in the windows of the United States Capitol.

“But the mob did not just shatter the windows of the Capitol. They shattered the ideas we took for granted.”

Schwarzenegger said his experience growing up in Europe has shown him “firsthand how things can spin out of control”.

He then denounced Trump, saying that he “sought a coup by misleading people with lies”.

“President Trump is a failed leader. He will go down in history as the worst president ever. The good thing is he will soon be as irrelevant as an old Tweet.”

He ended the video by wishing President-elect Joe Biden well and encouraging all Americans to stand behind him as he makes the transition to president.

Crows defender Brodie Smith signs three-year deal

Dashing defender Brodie Smith has shown faith in Adelaide’s direction under coach Matthew Nicks by signing a three-year contract extension with last year’s AFL wooden-spooners.

Smith, 28, would have been eligible for free agency at the end of the 2021 season but has committed until the end of the 2024 campaign.

“I absolutely love this footy club and I’m so happy to be signing on for another three years,” Smith said.

“We’re building a really strong culture here and it’s exciting to see how quickly our younger guys are developing and driving the standards, pushing all of us to get better every single day.

“I can’t wait to see their continued growth this year and play my part in helping them to improve wherever I can.”

Smith has played 183 games for the Crows after being selected with pick No.14 in the 2010 AFL Draft and was an All-Australian in 2014.

“Brodie is an integral part of our football club, both on and off the field,” Crows list manager Justin Reid said.

“After being added to the leadership group last year, he has had a significant influence on our playing list, and you can see he has really embraced our mantra of prioritising others.

“Brodie is a quality person and will play a key role in helping to fast-track the development of some of our young defenders as part of our list rejuvenation.”

Fire crews on red alert as state sizzles

A teenager has been charged with starting a bushfire in Adelaide’s south as the South Australia braces for a day of high fire danger.

South Australian fire crews are on standby, command centres are ready and water-bombing aircraft have been prepared as the state heads into a day of high bushfire risk.

Dangerous conditions have been declared in most districts for Monday, prompting total fire bans amid warnings the scrub is ready to burn. High temperatures and strong northerly winds are fuelling the concerns that have led to a severe fire danger rating for the Mount Lofty Ranges.

Crews last night responded quickly to a small grass fire on the grounds of Flinders University where security spotted two people fleeing the scene.

Police searched the area and found a set of house keys which led them to a nearby property where they arrested a 17-year-old male.

He was charged with causing a bushfire and was refused police bail to appear in Christies Beach Youth Court on Monday.

Investigations into the identity of the second suspect continue.

Country Fire Service duty commander Brenton Hastie says the underlying dryness means fires can become dangerous very quickly.

“We had a later start to the season but we’re now into January and the fuel is completely cured which means fires can burn to their maximum,” he said yesterday.

“So tomorrow is a day of concern for us. An extreme fire danger rating does mean that a fire has the potential to absolutely threaten lives and homes.”

The Bureau of Meteorology says Adelaide will have a top temperature of about 37C but the mercury will push into the 40s in some regional centres ahead of a gusty southerly change late this afternoon.

It says northerly winds will also rise, contributing to the fire danger on Monday morning, but conditions will start to ease later in the day as a cooler change moves through.

Temperatures will be milder for the rest of the week.

An extreme fire danger rating is forecast for the Lower South East, while a severe fire danger rating has been set for the Lower Eyre Peninsula, Mid North, Yorke Peninsula, Riverland, Mount Lofty Ranges, Murraylands, Kangaroo Island and Upper South East.

Emergency Services Minister Vincent Tarzia said South Australians should always be prepared to respond to the threat of bushfires.

“Whether you’re travelling across South Australia enjoying our beautiful state on holiday, or back at home, you must always be prepared to respond to a bushfire emergency,” he said.

“Have your bushfire survival plan ready. It takes five minutes to complete and could save your life.”

McCormack pans Trump social media ban

Australia’s acting prime minister Michael McCormack has criticised social media giants for kicking Donald Trump off their platforms.

The US president has been removed from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram after posting messages the technology giants said could encourage violence, following an insurrection by a mob of his supporters.

Asked if Trump helped incite a riot at the US Capitol on January 7, McCormack said the president’s social media comments were unfortunate, as was his refusal to accept the outcome of the US election.

But McCormack said it should not be up to Big Tech to decide whose voices were heard.

“I don’t believe in that sort of censorship,” he told ABC radio on Monday.

“There’s been a lot of people who have said and done a lot of things on Twitter previously that haven’t received that sort of condemnation or indeed censorship.”

However, the acting prime minister acknowledged social media companies were within their rights to close accounts.

“That’s a matter for Twitter, they’ve made that call, they’ve got a company, they’ve got a business to run, and they’ve made that decision,” he said.

McCormack would not be drawn on whether Mr Trump should be removed from office before his term ends on January 20.

But he did apply a distinctly Australian lens to the riots at Capitol Hill.

“These are unfortunate events and of course many people don’t remember how you rode the horse, they remember how you dismount the horse, and it is unfortunate this has occurred,” McCormack said.

“But as far as Donald Trump and his presidency is concerned, and the last few days of his administration, well that’s entirely a matter for the United States of America.”

Gabba Test given go-ahead

Brisbane’s Gabba Test is safe with members of India’s touring party telling Cricket Australia (CA) they will fly there on Tuesday.

The Queensland government has reduced the crowd capacity for the final Test, which starts on Friday, to 50 per cent while making masks mandatory for any fans moving around the venue.

The status of the series finale has been uncertain for more than a week after unnamed sources from within India’s camp pushed for it to be moved from the Queensland capital.

At the centre of their concerns were fears over the strictness of hotel quarantine, with the push known to have frustrated Australia’s players.

CA has been insistent all along the Test will go ahead at the ground as planned, after receiving positive feedback from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) bosses.

On Sunday night they received the most important tick of approval.

CA said on Monday that India’s touring party confirmed with them they are happy to play in Brisbane and agree to the city’s quarantine protocols.

“The fourth Test will be at the Gabba, as planned,” interim CA CEO Nick Hockley said on SEN Radio.

“On the basis of yesterday’s discussions, we are full steam ahead to play the fourth Test at the Gabba.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has confirmed Brisbane’s three-day lockdown, triggered after the UK variant of COVID-19 had been detected in the city last week, would end at 6pm (local time) on Monday.

There were again no new local cases of the virus on Monday but the government has opted to put a cap of approximately 20,000 fans per day for the fourth Test.

“The Gabba will be filled to half the capacity and masks are mandatory for entering, leaving and moving around the stadium,” Palaszczuk said.

Australia last lost at the Gabba in 1988, with their undefeated run of 31 matches at the ground the longest for any team at any venue in world cricket.

The third Test, being played in Sydney, will end today.


Kohli demands action on racial abuse

Indian superstar Virat Kohli wants “strict” action against any spectator found to have made racial slurs as the fallout from the SCG Test drama continues.

India made an official complaint to the ICC on Saturday night over alleged comments made to Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah on day three of the cricket match.

The situation then escalated further on Sunday when Siraj claimed more abusive comments had been made to him just before tea, stopping play for eight minutes.

The halt in play brought the issue to a head, with NSW Police and Cricket Australia launching separate investigations into the second incident.

“Racial abuse is absolutely unacceptable,” Kohli tweeted.

“Having gone through many incidents of really pathetic things said on the boundary lines, this is the absolute peak of rowdy behaviour.

“It’s sad to see this happen on the field.

“The incident needs to be looked at with absolute urgency and seriousness and strict action against the offenders should set things straight for once.”

While back in India awaiting the birth of his child, captain Kohli was one of several India players to speak on the incident.

Injured quick Mohammed Shami labelled the ongoing issue as “disappointing” and also called for “strict” action.

Veteran Ravichandran Ashwin wants the matter to be dealt with using an “iron fist” and said the abuse of India players had been an issue his whole career in Sydney.

“If I take myself back to my first tour in 2011-12, I had no clue about racial abuse and how you can be made to feel small in front of so many people,” Ashwin said.

“And the people actually laugh at you when you get abused, I had no idea what this was about.

“When I stood at the boundary line, you wanted to stand another 10 yards in to keep yourself away from these things.”

The SCG Trust is also investigating the matters, promising life bans for anyone found to have made racial remarks.

Day five of the third Test begins this morning with India 2-98 in pursuit of 407 to win the match. The four-match series is currently tied 1-1.

Japan discovers new coronavirus variant

Japan’s Health Ministry says it has detected a new coronavirus variant in four travellers from Brazil’s Amazonas state, the latest new mutation of the virus discovered.

Studies are now underway into the efficacy of vaccines against the new variant, which differs from highly infectious variants first found in Britain and South Africa that have driven a surge in cases.

“At the moment, there is no proof showing the new variant found in those from Brazil is high in infectiousness,” Takaji Wakita, head of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, told a health ministry briefing on Sunday.

Still, Brazil’s Health Ministry said it has been notified by Japan’s authorities that the new variant has 12 mutations, and one of them has already been identified also in the variants found in the United Kingdom and in South Africa.

“It implies a potential higher virus infectiousness,” it said.

Of the four travellers who arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda airport on January 2, a man in his 40s had a problem breathing, a woman in her thirties had a headache and sore throat and a man in his teens had a fever, while a woman in her teens showed no symptoms, the health ministry said.

All travellers are in quarantine at Tokyo’s airport, Brazil’s Health Ministry said.

After seeing a steep rise in coronavirus cases, Japan declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and three prefectures neighbouring the capital on Thursday.

Nationwide cases have totalled about 289,000, with 4,061 deaths, public broadcaster NHK said.

Landslides kill 11 in Indonesia

Two landslides triggered by heavy rain in Indonesia have left at least 11 dead and 18 injured, officials say.

The second landslide in Cihanjuang village in the Sumedang district of West Java province occurred as rescuers were still evacuating people following the first disaster on Saturday, National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Raditya Jati said.

Rescuers were among the victims, he said on Sunday.

The rain stopped on Saturday night. A bridge and roads were blocked by the landslides as authorities struggled to bring in heavy equipment to clear the debris.

Seasonal rains and high tide in recent days have caused dozens of landslides and widespread flooding across much of Indonesia.

The chain of 17,000 islands is home to millions of people who live in mountainous areas or near fertile flood plains close to rivers.

It comes a day after Sriwijaya Air jet carrying 62 people crashed into the sea soon after taking off from the capital Jakarta in heavy rain.

– with AAP and Reuters
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