[QODLink]
Asia-Pacific

Australia bushfires rage out of control

More than 100 fires burn in the country's most populous state as intense heat and winds make conditions "catastrophic".
Last Modified: 08 Jan 2013 21:09

Bushfires have been raging out of control across Australia's most populous state, fanned by intense heat and high winds in "catastrophic" conditions that triggered evacuations.

Of the more than 140 fires burning across New South Wales state late on Tuesday, around 40 of them were uncontained, state Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said in Sydney.

"You don't get conditions worse than this, we are at the catastrophic level," he said.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard warned the nation to keep safe as temperatures soared to more than 45C.

"This is a very dangerous day," Gillard said. "It is very important that people keep themselves safe, that they listen to local authorities and local warnings."

Thousands of firefighters were on standby across New South Wales, while hundreds of people were forced to evacuate homes.

"Catastrophic" level of danger is the most severe rating available. It was introduced after the 2009 Black Saturday firestorm in Victoria, which claimed 173 lives, and means fires will be uncontrollable, unpredictable and fast-moving, with evacuation the only safe option.

Few homes razed

There were fears that the city of Sydney could be threatened next, but so far, mostly scarcely populated areas have been hit.

So far there were reports of just one home being destroyed in the state, at Jugiong near the Australian Capital Territory border. Another two homes were razed in central Victoria state, local media said.

Fitzsimmons said fire crews faced a long night.

"We've still got many hours of very difficult conditions being faced for NSW. That's tonight alone, let alone looking into tomorrow," he told ABC television.

Temperatures soared so high, and are expected to continue climbing in the days ahead, that the Bureau of Meteorology was forced to add new colours - deep purple and pink - to its charts for forecasts above the previous limit of 50C.

Thousands flocked to Sydney's iconic Bondi Beach to escape the heat as temperature hit 41.8C.

No deaths have been reported so far from the latest fires that are a regular occurrence particularly in the hot summer months between December and February.

Wildfires destroyed more than 100 homes in Tasmania over the weekend, and around 40 blazes were still burning across the southern island state but the immediate threat to homes was believed to have passed.

371

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
The new military government has issued warnings that it will soon start to clampdown on immigration offenders.
As Snowden awaits Russian visa renewal, the world mulls role of NSA and expects more revelations from document trove.
A handful of agencies that provide tours to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea say business is growing.
A political power struggle masquerading as religious strife grips Nigeria - with mixed-faith couples paying the price.
The current surge in undocumented child migrants from Central America has galvanized US anti-immigration groups.
join our mailing list