Prime Minister Tony Abbott has praised emergency services for their efforts during the devastating South Australian bushfires, saying they could have been a lot worse.
Mr Abbott on Thursday toured bushfire-affected areas in Adelaide Hills, with SA Premier Jay Weatherill, and announced federal support for the bushfire victims.
He confirmed that victims who has lost their homes would be eligible to apply for Centrelink disaster recovery payments of $1000 per adult and $400 per child. People can also apply for income loss.
This week Mr Abbott was criticised for not returning to Australia quickly enough, while on an organised tour of the United Arab Emirates along with a side trip to visit Australian troops in Iraq.
In the Adelaide Hills on Thursday, Mr Abbott was confronted by a media pack who questioned his decision to return to Australia on Wednesday afternoon, when he was notified of the emergency disaster on Saturday.
“I was on my way to the Middle East on Saturday when I first started getting calls (about the fires). I was in regular contact at all times, I arrived back to Sydney yesterday afternoon and here I am this morning,” Mr Abbott said.
Mr Abbott said the efforts of emergency workers in the face of the conditions were “remarkable”.
“The courage, the professionalism, the dedication has been simply exemplary,” he said.
“But for those efforts, we could be looking at a much greater cost.”
Mr Weatherill confirmed there were 27 homes lost in the fire that ravaged the outskirts of Adelaide, as well as livestock and pets.
The Adelaide Hills blaze was described as the worst in 30 years, with more than 11,000 hectares of scrub blackened and almost 600 firefighters on the ground.