Published: Fri, November 15, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Australia bushfires: Latest images from New South Wales

Australia bushfires: Latest images from New South Wales

More than 50 homes were damaged or destroyed and 13 firefighters were injured overnight by catastrophic wildfires across Australia's most populous state before the emergency subsided on Wednesday, officials said.

An aircraft was diverted to drop fire retardants on emergency bushfires threatening homes in Sydney's northern suburbs. Television footage showed some of the substance overshot the blaze, colouring houses and vehicles pink and red.

New South Wales and Queensland have declared states of emergency.

"There is nothing built or created to withstand the sorts of conditions that you can expect under catastrophic" conditions, said Shane Fitzsimmons, commissioner of the rural fire service for New South Wales state, which encompasses Sydney.

"As we increase the fire danger rating from severe, extreme to catastrophic, we're actually seeing an increase in the weather elements to produce that rating".

So far there have been limited reports of injuries, although one firefighter was said to have suffered a heart attack.

Bushfires are common in Australia during spring and summer, which in the Southern Hemisphere is from November to February, however, especially dry weather has worsened conditions. However three people have died since the fires ramped up on Friday and more than 300 homes have been destroyed since that time. "Many days, many weeks, indeed many months if we don't get rain before we properly bring these fires under control, establish consolidation and declare them safe", Fitzsimmons said.

In the small town of Wauchope, 400 km (250 miles) north of Sydney, residents moved hundreds of livestock to the central showground as fires approached.

"The risks are high, so I will be taking my hard drive and everything important with me when I leave my house, just in case", she said.

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Temperatures in the high 30s, low humidity and winds up to 80 km/h coupled with the drought mean the state faces "horrendous conditions", according to the RFS.

In nearby Sydney, the authorities do not expect the city's four-plus million people to be under direct threat, but a health warning was issued as a cloak of smoke haze drifted into the country's biggest city.

"When preceding conditions have been like this, and the bush and grass is so dry, it doesn't take much for a fire to get going once the wind is up". NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said nine public schools across the state's north were evacuated.

The fires also forced organisers to cancel the season-ending Rally of Australia, which pitted Hyundai against Toyota.

Those at any risk of danger should keep an eye on the NSW Rural Fire Service and the Queensland Rural Fire Service.

NSW is preparing for catastrophic and unprecedented conditions in what could be the most unsafe bushfire week in Australia's history.

The QFES has also warned there is a large fire burning in Kilkivan in the vicinity of the Des Simpson Memorial and conditions are getting worse. Australia's government has often avoided questions on whether climate change could have contributed to the fires, in a response that has drawn criticism.

Fellow Wytaliba resident and Glen Innes Severn mayor Carol Sparks, whose home was severely damaged in a blaze, said there was "no doubt" about the link to climate change.

"We are overwhelmed with the intensity of this fire and climate change is responsible".

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