BExodus and record heat in Australia create dramatic scenes in the most populous state of New South Wales. Around 10,000 police officers, rescue workers, paramedics and firefighters were deployed on Saturday. The government in New South Wales, in the south-east of the country, called on vacationers in Sydney not to leave the city within the next 24 hours. Dozens of roads heading southwest to Canberra and Melbourne and many train routes have been blocked.
It is the “probably largest deployment of rescue workers” in the state, the responsible minister David Elliot told reporters. He asked the population to support the rescuers. “They are there four days before Christmas to protect families,” the minister said.
According to the authorities, hundreds of bush fires in Australia have already destroyed several million hectares of land since October. More than 1000 houses have been destroyed.
In the fight against the flames, the fire department is particularly troubled by the ongoing heat wave: up to 47 degrees were expected in the outskirts of Sydney, the state capital. Australia has been suffering from severe drought for around two to three years, so the dried up vegetation is particularly easy to ignite.
“Dangerous” air quality
A particularly threatening large fire in the northwest of the city is only around 70 kilometers away, another wildfire rages 90 kilometers southwest of the metropolis. In Sydney itself, people suffer from the smoke. The authorities classify the air quality as “dangerous”.
The flames threatened the town of Lithgow on Saturday, some 12,000 people, around 140 kilometers west of Sydney. Some of the houses there have already been destroyed by fire. Over 100 bush fires were still counted across the state on Saturday. “We can't get all these fires under control unless we get decent rain,” said fire chief Shane Fitzsimmons.
At least eight people in New South Wales have died because of the fires. Around three million hectares have been burned, and around 800 houses and apartments have been destroyed by the flames.
Bushfires in four out of eight states
Meanwhile, in four of Australia's eight states, thousands of firefighters are fighting out of control bushfires. Searing temperatures of up to 50 degrees were expected in some parts of South Australia. In a mountain range near Adelaide, the state's capital, two people died in a fire. Hundreds of firefighters are also deployed in the states of Victoria and Queensland. Two fires in Victoria were classified as emergencies. People are in danger there too.
In Canberra, Australia's capital, the population also suffers from high temperatures and smoke. In the city, a new record temperature of 41.1 degrees was measured for December. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who was criticized for a family trip to Hawaii, was expected to return to Australia on Saturday.