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'Catastrophic' Wildfires Continue To Rage Across Australia – NPR, Npr.org

'Catastrophic' Wildfires Continue To Rage Across Australia – NPR, Npr.org


      

            

    

    

        

                Rural Fire Service officers engage in property protection of a number of homes along the Old Hume Highway near the town of Tahmoor, New South Wales, as the Green Wattle Creek Fire threatens a number of communities in the southwest of Sydney.                                                                           Dean Lewins / AP                                                      hide caption            

            

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                 Dean Lewins / AP              

    

    

        

Rural Fire Service officers engage in property protection of a number of homes along the Old Hume Highway near the town of Tahmoor, New South Wales, as the Green Wattle Creek Fire threatens a number of communities in the southwest of Sydney .

        

                         Dean Lewins / AP                          

   

   

A large portion of Australia is on fire after weeks of extreme heat, strong winds and drought have created ideal conditions forhundreds of bushfiresto thrive across the country. Several fires have been burning since November, particularly in the Eastern state of New South Wales.

The fires threaten many of Australia’s largest population centers, including Sydney, a city of more than 5 million, which has been cloaked in smoke. Blazes have destroyed hundreds of homes and almost 3 million acres of bushland, threatening the habitat of countless wildlife,including already endangered koalas.One fire in the state of Victoria has reportedlybecome large enough to generate its own weather

The fires come after years of drought in parts of the country and record-breaking heat. Earlier this week, Australiahad its hottest day on record– only to break that recordthe following day. And fire season has just begun, leaving many bracing for worse.

            

    

        

                Thick smoke from wildfires shroud the Opera House in Sydney, Australia, Tuesday, Dec. 13, (****************************************************************************. Hot dry conditions have brought an early start to the fire season.                                                                           Rick Rycroft / AP                                                      hide caption            

            

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                 Rick Rycroft / AP              

    

    

        

Thick smoke from wildfires shroud the Opera House in Sydney, Australia, Tuesday, Dec. 13, (****************************************************************************. Hot dry conditions have brought an early start to the fire season.

        

                         Rick Rycroft / AP                          

   

   

Thousands of firefighters are currently deployed, many of whom are volunteers. Several have been injured andtwo died earlier this week

when a fallen tree limb overturned their vehicle. Their deaths prompted Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to return early from a family vacation to Hawaii – a vacation that was largely criticized as tone-deaf by much of the public as the country battled its worst fire season in recent memory.

“I deeply regret any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time,” Morrison saidin a statement released Friday. Morrison haspreviously been scrutinizedfor his unwillingness to link Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions to extreme fire conditions last month.

            

                  

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Australia Wildfires: State Of Emergency Declared Over 'Catastrophic' Danger

                

                             

                  

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The prime minister’s return coincides with anew state of emergencyissued for New South Wales, the country most populous state, as “catastrophic” fire conditions were listed for the region, the highest fire danger rating possible in the country. Andrea Peace, a meteorologist for Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said Saturday could be the worst day for the area, as a front moves in from the south.

“What it’s going to do is bring quite a strong, gusty southerly wind … (which) creates a really dangerous period for the fire grounds because it rapidly changes the directions of the fires there, ” Peace said.

She said there could be gusts of up to kilometers per hour, or about 71 miles per hour.

       

Julia Holman, a reporter for Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Sydney,NPR’s David Greene earlier this weeksaid that the fires are already overwhelming the area.

“New South Wales is an enormous state. It’s bigger than the size of Texas. And the fires literally go from the top of the state right down to the bottom,” Holman said.

She said fires are very common in Australia, but not like this.

“The problem is that it’s so dry that we cannot put out these fires. And that’s what’s different this time around,” she said.

“These fires are also in very dense bushland. They cannot be put out by human effort,” Holman continued. “We’re waiting for rain. But we’re in the midst of the worst drought on record here in New South Wales. So there is no possible way that these fires can be put out no matter the enormous human effort that is going into it. “

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