‘Catastrophic’ fires continue to rage in Australia, Latest World News - The New Paper

‘Catastrophic’ fires continue to rage in Australia

This article is more than 12 months old

SYDNEY: Fires raged across a swathe of Australia's east coast yesterday, destroying some homes and shrouding Sydney in smoke, as the authorities feared they would be unable to control the conflagration until next week.

An aircraft was sent to drop fire retardants on bush fires threatening homes in Sydney's northern suburbs.

Officials were responding to 11 emergency warnings in New South Wales as around half the 70 fires across the state burned uncontrolled in conditions termed "catastrophic".

"We've got a long way to go yet before we can say we're comfortable with the state of the fires... particularly in northern New South Wales given the enormous size of the fires that are burning still," said the state's Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.

He said some firefighters suffered injuries, including fractures and heat exhaustion.

Bush fires are a common and deadly threat in Australia's dry summers but the ferocity and early arrival of this outbreak in the spring has caught many by surprise. Blazes have been spurred by extremely dry conditions after three years of drought in parts of New South Wales and Queensland, which experts say has been exacerbated by climate change.


The current outbreak, which killed three people and destroyed more than 150 homes at the weekend, has been fanned by an unprecedented combination of high temperatures and strong winds.

Most of the emergency warnings issued by authorities yesterday, including for the South Turramurra fire 20km north of central Sydney, told affected residents they must seek cover and that it was too late to flee their homes.

In Sydney, home to five million people, health authorities urged people with respiratory issues to stay indoors because the city was covered by a "hazardous" smoky haze. Around 600 schools and colleges were closed across the state.

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