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6mn hectares gutted, Australia blaze may intensify further

By Natasha Chaku
Last updated on: January 10, 2020 18:33 IST
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IMAGE: A burnt paw of a brushtail possum is pictured as it is nursed by WIRES volunteers in Merimbula, Australia. Photograph: Tracey Nearmy/Reuters

Bushfires continued to pose serious threat in several parts of Australia with high temperatures and windy conditions expected to further fan the ongoing blaze across the country.

 

Since September last year, Australia's raging bushfire crisis, one of the worst in its history, has killed 24 people, burned over six million hectares of land, reduced to ashes hundreds of homes and pushed many species towards extinction.

The bushfires continued to pose serious threat in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia.

IMAGE: A dog visits the burnt out property of its owner's family member in Kia. Photograph: Tracey Nearmy/Reuters

Authorities on Friday issued fresh warnings and evacuation orders in Victoria as hot and windy conditions threatened to regenerate huge bushfires.

Around 23 fires were still burning in Victoria, according to the state's emergency management department.

Emergency warnings were issued for Buchan due to spot fires sparking and a new warning was issued for the area around Swifts Creek.

IMAGE: An injured kangaroo limps in a creek bed before being euthanised on a farm in Cobargo. Photograph: Tracey Nearmy/Reuters

The Victorian town of Combienbar was hit by a grassfire threatening homes and the Combienbar Hall, officials said.

Military helicopters were deployed for the evacuation operation.

According to media reports, two fires that were burning along the alpine border between Victoria and New South Wales had merged, making a massive blaze that burned about 640,000 hectares so far.

IMAGE: Soldiers sit on a beach amongst burnt trees where people had previously taken shelter during a fire on New Year's Eve in Mallacoota. Photograph: Tracey Nearmy/Reuters

Meanwhile, a cool change has started to sweep through Melbourne on Friday. However, it is expected to worsen the conditions at the fire front.

"When the change hits, wind gusts could reach up to 90 km/hour on the Gippsland coast, where a severe weather warning has been issued.

"This is of concern for the fires further inland, as firefighters will have to cope with a few hours of heavy wind before a band of rain moves through," Steven McGibbony, forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorology was quoted as saying by The Age.

IMAGE: Sheep make their way in the fire grounds near Bega, News South Wales. Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

In New South Wales, about 135 fires are still burning, with nine at 'watch and act' levels.

On the South Coast, four fires, including the Border and Werri Berri blazes, are in the 'watch and act' level.

Kosciuszko National Park, where vast land tracts were destroyed in the blaze, is again at risk.

IMAGE: A destroyed bus is seen next to burnt bushland in the village of Mogo. Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

Several beaches on the south coast, including Narooma, Dalmeny, Tuross Head, Moruya, Broulee, Malua Bay, Surf Beach and Aslings Beach, have remained closed for the entire weekend.

A 'cool and gusty southerly change' was moving through New South Wales and was expected to reach Sydney by 1 am (local time) on Saturday.

However, the Bureau of Meteorology warned that the change 'will bring difficult conditions for New South Wales fires' and issued a warning.

IMAGE: Destroyed cars are seen next to burnt bushland in the village of Mogo. Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

In South Australia, fire situation on Kangaroo Island was downgraded on Friday with no emergency warnings now present.

The area received significant rainfall and a drop in temperatures which is assisting crews to control multiple fires that flared up overnight.

SA Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Corrections, Corey Wingard, has lauded the community of Kangaroo Island for their resilience and also thanked emergency services for the efforts.

IMAGE: Fire rescue vehicles are seen at the Ben Boyd Reservoir following the crash of a firefighting helicopter, near Boyd Town. Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

Meanwhile, a team of United Kingdom experts was on its way to Australia to help the country to prepare for the unprecedented bushfire crisis.

In addition to this, US firefighters landed in Sydney on Friday to help fight the bushfires.

Over 70 firefighters have arrived from the US and Canada this week to help with firefighting efforts apart from the 157 New Zealand firefighters.

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Natasha Chaku in Melbourne
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