Aus­tralia fires worsen as ev­ery state hits 40C

The Punch - - WORLD -

SCORES of fires are burn­ing out of con­trol across Aus­tralia amid a heat­wave that has seen tem­per­a­tures ex­ceed 40C (104F) in ev­ery state.

The Bri­tish Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion said that the most dan­ger­ous fires on Mon­day were in the state of Vic­to­ria.

About 30,000 res­i­dents and tourists were urged to flee East

Gipp­s­land – a pop­u­lar hol­i­day re­gion – but evac­u­a­tions were later deemed too risky as fires en­croached on ma­jor roads.

A vol­un­teer fire­fighter died bat­tling a blaze in the state of New South Wales.

In to­tal, 10 peo­ple have died in the na­tion’s bush­fire cri­sis since Septem­ber.

Me­te­o­rol­o­gists say a cli­mate sys­tem in the In­dian Ocean, known as the dipole, is the main driver be­hind the ex­treme heat in Aus­tralia.

Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son said an­other fire fighter was in­jured in a sep­a­rate ve­hi­cle.

“This is aw­ful news for the fam­i­lies and our sym­pa­thies are with them. These are test­ing times. We are so grate­ful for the courage and ded­i­ca­tion of our fire fight­ers,” he tweeted.

The vol­un­teer fire fighter is the third to be killed so far this fire sea­son. Two vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers, both fa­thers to young chil­dren, died on 19 De­cem­ber bat­tling a blaze near Syd­ney.

Prime Min­is­ter Mor­ri­son was widely crit­i­cised for be­ing abroad on hol­i­day at the time, and re­turned home early.

Scorch­ing tem­per­a­tures, strong winds and thun­der­storms cre­ated dan­ger­ous con­di­tions in Vic­to­ria on Mon­day.

In East Gipp­s­land, three fires burn­ing near the towns of Bruthen, Buchan and Bo­nang rapidly ex­panded as tem­per­a­tures soared to the mid-40cs.

Of­fi­cials said the wind­driven blazes were “rac­ing” to­wards the coast, and had moved faster than pre­dicted.

Other emer­gency warn­ings re­mained in place for sev­eral fires in the state, with some urged to evac­u­ate.

“We have had a chal­leng­ing day in Vic­to­ria,” said An­drew Crisp, the state’s emer­gency man­age­ment com­mis­sioner.

He said the huge blazes had pro­duced their own weather sys­tems from smoke col­umns “punch­ing into the at­mos­phere 14km high”.

“There’s light­ning com­ing out of these col­umns. It is un­pre­dictable [and] it’s dan­ger­ous out there,” he said.

Sim­i­lar fire-gen­er­ated thun­der­storms – or pyro cu­mu­lonim­bus – were also recorded in NSW.

Light­ning strikes in dry, drought-af­fected forests have the po­ten­tial to quickly be­come fires that threaten lives and homes.

Dry light­ning sparked at least 70 new fires in the re­gion in the past 24 hours, of­fi­cials said.

A 250km (155-mile) stretch of the Princes High­way, east of Bairns­dale, was closed on Mon­day.

On Sun­day, Mr Crisp urged peo­ple in the re­gion – about 280km (175 miles) east of Mel­bourne – to “get out”, but con­firmed on Mon­day that many peo­ple had re­mained in the re­gion.

Else­where in the state, a ma­jor New Year’s Eve mu­sic fes­ti­val has been can­celled after or­gan­is­ers said the bush­fire threat was too dan­ger­ous.

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