Australia braces for ‘catastrophic’ bushfires

Agency, 12 November : A vast area of Australia’s east coast – including Sydney – is bracing itself for one of the nation’s worst ever bushfire threats.

More than 50 blazes are burning across the state of New South Wales (NSW) ahead of predicted “catastrophic” conditions later on Tuesday.

Authorities warn that fires will spread quickly to endanger lives amid hot temperatures and strong winds. About six million people live in the region.

People in vulnerable communities have been urged to stay away from bushland, and to flee their homes before the fires escalate. More than 600 schools are closed across the state.

State Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who has declared a seven-day state of emergency, said Tuesday would be “about protecting life, protecting property and ensuring everybody is safe as possible”.

Three people have died and more than 150 properties have been destroyed since the fire emergency intensified in NSW on Friday. But authorities say they are now facing what could be “the most dangerous bushfire week this nation has ever seen”.

Experts have compared Tuesday’s forecast to the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria, when 173 people died.

It’s the first time that a “catastrophic” level fire warning is in place across the greater Sydney area and in the regions to the city’s north and south. The highest level rating was brought in after the 2009 disaster.

“Under catastrophic conditions, fires that start and take hold will grow and develop extremely quickly and become large fires very, very easily,” NSW Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

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