Australia braces as authorities warn new fires could threaten high population areas

Elias Hubbard
December 10, 2019

Severe water restrictions begin in the harbour city on Tuesday.

Nearly 3,000 firefighters will be deployed to fight the more than 80 bushfires which continue to burn across the state, including a so-called mega-fire north-west of Sydney, which was formed when the huge Gospers Mountain blaze merged with the neighbouring Little L Complex, Paddock Run, Three Mile and Kerry Ridge fires.

Situations are anticipated to worsen from Tuesday, when temperatures are forecast to prime 40 levels Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and winds are anticipated to start out choosing up.

Wildfires have killed at least four people, destroyed more than 680 homes and burned more than 1 million hectares of bushland across eastern Australia since the start of November.

Such forecasts have heightened worries about a so-called mega blaze burning north of Sydney.

Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, who is leading efforts to tackle more than 80 blazes across the state of New South Wales, said it would be a "very complex, very hard day" for his team.

"The big danger is if the winds come from the west and that's exactly what is forecast", said Hawkesbury City Mayor Barry Calvert. "I've been through this before about 20 years ago when I stood outside my house looking at flames 50 feet high, I decided then that I would leave early if it happened again".

The Rural Fire Service commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, warned on Monday that while wind conditions won't be as hard as previous high fire danger days, that could be cancelled out by the high temperatures and low humidity expected on Tuesday.

Bushfires are frequent in Australia's scorching, dry summers, however the ferocity and early arrival of the fires within the southern spring is unprecedented.

"Let's call it for what it is: these bushfires have been caused by extreme weather events, high temperatures, the worst drought in living memory - the exact type of events scientists have been warning us about for decades that would have been caused by climate change", said Matt Kean, the NSW state minister for energy and environment.

The wildfires have blanketed Sydney - home to more than 5 million people - in smoke and ash for more than two weeks, turning the daytime sky orange, obscuring visibility and prompting commuters to wear breathing masks.

While the air quality index (AQI) deems any reading over 200 as "hazardous", the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that on Tuesday morning two suburbs in Sydney's west had reached over 2,000 on the AQI.

The thick haze forced widespread transport disruptions, with ferries suspended and trains experiencing lengthy delays."Remain inside with the windows and doors closed, preferably in an air-conditioned building", the NSW state government's health department said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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