Sydney faces 'catastrophic' fire danger amid record heatwave

Updated: 22 December, 2019 07:52 IST | Agencies | Sydney

The alert was issued for many parts of New South Wales, including Sydney; several other areas are under 'extreme' fire danger alerts.

An old car burns from bushfires in Balmoral, 150 kilometres southwest of Sydney. Pic/AFP
An old car burns from bushfires in Balmoral, 150 kilometres southwest of Sydney. Pic/AFP

Sydney: Sydney faced "catastrophic" fire conditions on Saturday as a record heatwave exacerbated more than 100 blazes burning across Australia's most populous state. New South Wales has declared a state of emergency amid the heatwave, which has produced the hottest day on record and fanned bushfires along Australia's eastern coastline, smothering Sydney in smoke. Saturday's catastrophic warning for greater Sydney, the highest level of danger, means fires can spread rapidly and are extremely difficult to control. It is the second such warning for the city this season.

"Catastrophic fire danger is as bad as it gets," New South Wales rural fire service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said. There is concern that an expected southerly wind change will bring erratic fire conditions, he said. The crisis has caused road closures and authorities have urged motorists to avoid travel, disrupting holiday plans for Sydneysiders hoping to leave the city for a summer break.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison cut short his vacation in Hawaii and apologised for taking leave while the wildfires ravage Australia, reflecting the political pressure building on his government that denies the blazes are linked to climate change. In New South Wales alone, eight people have been killed, more than six million acres have been burnt out and 800 houses destroyed since the fire season started. Fires are also raging in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, where local media reported that one person died in a fire zone on Saturday. The state's Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott described it as probably the largest emergency deployment ever seen.

Million acres burnt

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First Published: 22 December, 2019 07:24 IST

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