unpredictability of the fires as winds of up to 70 kph (44 mph)
were set to fan flames through the middle of the day
A catastrophic fire warning has been issued for parts of New South Wales in eastern Australia, including Sydney. Emergency crews are also battling serious blazes in the states of Victoria and South Australia.
New South Wales has seen the largest ever deployment of its emergency services. About 100 fires are burning across Australia’s most populous state. About half are out of control. Residents in the path of a mega-blaze near Sydney have been told it is too late to leave. They have been advised to seek shelter in a ‘solid structure’ to avoid the heat of the flames.
A heatwave has exacerbated the fire threat, while a long drought has made the ground tinder dry.
Rob Rodgers, the New South Wales Deputy Rural Fire Service Commissioner, says the dangers are extreme.
“We cannot guarantee that every time someone wants a fire truck we are going to have someone there,” said Rodgers. “So do not be expecting a fire truck to be there. We will do our best but do not rely on that. Do not wait for a warning. Think about what you are going to do if you are in the path of these fires. Think about what you are going to do well ahead of time as in now.”
There are emergency fire warnings in Victoria and South Australia, where already one person has been found dead and another left critically injured.
A blaze about 330 kilometers east of Melbourne became so big it began “generating its own weather,” according to the authorities.
For a second day, protestors have gathered outside the prime minister’s official residence in Sydney. Scott Morrison was criticized for going on holiday to Hawaii during the bushfire crisis. He’s apologized and is heading home. Many Australians have accused Morrison and his conservative government of inaction on climate change.
Bushfires have always been part of the Australian story. But officials say this fire season has not only started earlier than usual, it is far more intense. Worse may yet be to come, with summer temperatures normally peaking in January and February.