Australia wildfire at ‘catastrophic’ level

Australia wildfire at ‘catastrophic’ level

SYDNEY - Agence France-Presse
Australia wildfire at ‘catastrophic’ level

Firefighters battle scores of wildfires raging across Australia as authorities evacuated national parks and enacted total fire bans were in some areas. AFP photo

Bushfires raged out of control across Australia’s most populous state yesterday, fanned by intense heat and high winds in “catastrophic” conditions that threatened homes and triggered evacuations.

More than 130 fires were burning across New South Wales state, 40 of them uncontained, state Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters in Sydney. “You don’t get conditions worse than this, we are at the catastrophic level,” he said. Introduced after the 2009 Black Saturday firestorm in Victoria state, which claimed 173 lives, a “catastrophic” rating means fires will be uncontrollable, unpredictable and fast-moving, with evacuation the only safe option. Wildfires destroyed more than 100 homes in Tasmania over the weekend, and around 40 blazes were still burning across the southern island state but the immediate threat to homes was believed to have passed.

Map upgraded

Extreme heat also forced the government’s weather bureau to upgrade its temperature scale, with new colors on the climate map to reflect new highs forecast next week.

Central Australia was shown with a purple area on the latest Bureau of Meteorology forecast map issued for next Monday, a new color code suggesting temperatures will soar above 50 degrees Celsius.

Australia’s all-time record temperature is 50.7 degrees, set in January 1960 at Oodnadatta in the state of South Australia.