Wildfires rage across Australia amid searing heatBy FRANCE 24
Firefighters battled scores of wildfires raging across southeast Australia on Tuesday as authorities evacuated national parks and warned that blistering temperatures and high winds had led to “catastrophic” conditions in some areas.
No deaths had been reported, although officials in Tasmania were still trying to find around 100 residents who have been missing since a fire tore through the small town of Dunalley, east of the state capital of Hobart, last week, destroying around 90 homes. On Tuesday, police said no bodies were found during preliminary checks of the ruined houses.
“You don’t get conditions worse than this,” New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said. “We are at the catastrophic level and clearly in those areas leaving early is your safest option.”
Catastrophic threat level is the most severe rating applicable.
FRANCE 24’s Australia correspondent, Roger Maynard, reporting from Sydney said, “‘Catastrophic’ is a term only recently introduced, designed to emphasize the extreme danger that people face, and to persuade them to leave their homes and not to stay behind and try to protect their houses from the flames.”
“The temperature here nudged 43 degrees Centigrade…largely unprecedented even by Australian standards,” he said.
“In fact today was the hottest day on average across Australia since records started being taken 140 years ago; the average temperature across the nation was 40.33 degrees.” (104.5°F)
“The fire services’ chiefs are saying that it looks like the worst might be over if we can get through the next three or four hours when some cooler southerly winds are due to arrive,” he said.
More than 130 fires were blazing across New South Wales, though only a few dozen houses were under threat by early evening. One fire was threatening about 30 homes near the small town of Cooma, south of the capital of Canberra. Cooma-Monaro shire mayor Dean Lynch told Australia’s Sky News some residents had evacuated to the nearby town of Nimmitabel.
Strong winds were hampering efforts to bring the fires under control. Wind gusts more than 100 kilometers an hour (62 miles per hour) were recorded in some parts of the state.
All state forests and national parks were closed as a precaution and total fire bans were in place with temperatures surpassing 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) in some areas. more
Australians told to flee homes over firesDW 08 JAN 2013
Australian firefighters and public figures have implored those in the path of the country's raging fires to leave their homes early. Bushfires are burning in five out of six of Australia's states.
Australian officials told householders in areas threatened by bushfires to flee their homes on Tuesday as temperatures continued to rise and outback winds fanned flames across the country.
"You don't get conditions worse than this," Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said on what was anticipated to be Sydney's third-hottest day for 150 years.
"We're at the catastrophic level and clearly in those areas, leaving early is your safest option," Fitzsimmons advised.
"I cannot say it more plainly: the risk is real and potentially deadly," Fitzsimmons said. "If you live in bushland or an isolated area where there is a catastrophic fire-danger rating, your only option is to leave early."
"The word catastrophic is being used for good reason," Prime Minister Julia Gillard also said, appealing to householders to follow orders. An automated telephone and texting service has contacted over a million people within the state of New South Wales urging them to leave.
According to research, most deaths in such circumstances happen when householders hold off evacuating until the last minute and get trapped in their cars trying to flee.
With temperatures soaring up to expected highs of 45 Celsius (110 Fahrenheit), and gusts of wind forming a "dome of heat" over the country, bushfires are raging in five out of Australia's six states.
Twenty one out of the 100 fires currently burning are uncontained, though none constitute an immediate threat.
New fires also broke out on Tuesday around southern New South Wales, Tasmania and around Canberra. National parks have been forced to close for the first time in history and campers have been told to go home. more