Australia probes theft of drinking water in drought-hit state

FILE PHOTO: A lone tree stands near a water trough in a drought-effected paddock located on the outskirts of Walgett, in New South Wales, Australia, July 20, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo

MELBOURNE – Australian police are investigating the theft of tens of thousands of liters of drinking water from a council site on the far north coast of the drought- and bushfire stricken state of New South Wales.

The devastating bushfires have killed at least four people since November, burnt about 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) of farmland and bush, and destroyed more than 400 homes.

Police said offenders in a water tanker and a Toyota Hilux utility stole about 25,000 liters of drinking water from a property in the town of Murwillumbah on the state’s far northern coast.

The act of stealing water during a time of hardship for much of New South Wales was “shocking,” said Detective Chief Inspector Luke Arthurs.

“This kind of theft is not acceptable,” he added. “Police will continue to investigate this incident and are pleading with anyone with information to contact us.”

Sydney was blanketed in smoke this week as the state registered some of the worst air quality in the world, heightening public anger and raising political pressure on the government to do more to battle climate change.

While police are investigating what triggered some fires, firefighters and scientists have blamed the bulk of the blazes on soaring temperatures and three years of drought that left bushland tinder-box dry.

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