Saturday, 07 December, 2019

Australia Bushfires Destroy Over 50 Houses But Cool Change Brings Relief

A bushfire burns outside a property near Taree 350km north of Sydney Australia bushfires hit Sydney suburbs
Travis Berry | 14 November, 2019, 00:41

Fortunately heavy smoke on Tuesday morning served as an "insulation blanket" to the strong winds moving across the Northern Tablelands so several fires did not flare up as much as feared, Mr Fitzsimmons said.

A firefighter suffered a fractured arm and ribs before the fire was rapidly contained with the aid of a jet dumping fire retardant and a helicopter dropping water, officials said.

Bushfires are a common and deadly threat in Australia's hot, dry summers but the ferocity and early arrival of this year's outbreak in the southern hemisphere spring has caught many by surprise.

Australian officials ordered people in several communities, including a major tourist destination, to evacuate immediately on Wednesday as firefighters struggled to contain bushfires raging across the country's east coast.

At 7pm on Tuesday there were more than 70 fires burning in both NSW and Queensland with up to 20,000 firefighters working to try and stop them spreading.

A weeklong state of emergency for New South Wales was declared on Monday because of the fire danger, with Tuesday forecast to be the most unsafe day.

More than 1.1 million ha of land have been either burnt or burning, and the hot and windy conditions are set to spike again next week.

But authorities say the worst is "still ahead" as hot and dry conditions are expected to continue.

A helicopter also crashed while fighting fires in the north of the region, though the pilot managed to escape with only minor injuries.

However the NSW Rural Fire Service have confirmed at least 50 homes were damaged or destroyed on Tuesday, with RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons admitting firefighters were "deflated" by the losses.

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"It's going to be a long effort yet".

"Conditions are now very risky and firefighters may soon be unable to prevent the fire advancing", Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) said in the emergency warning.

In Queensland state, the danger was not quite as great, with the threat level pegged at "severe", two levels below the "catastrophic" conditions in NSW. "We will not have all these fires contained and locked up for many, many weeks".

Around 3,000 firefighters have been on the ground battling the flames in NSW, a state home to around six million.

Mr Fitzimmons said nothing except rain would make "any discernible difference to conditions".

"It was just chewing up everything", Ms Karen Weston told Australian Broadcasting Corp of a fire near Taree on the mid-north coast. "I've survived two other bushfires before this but never anything like this".

"We are overwhelmed with the intensity of this fire and climate change is responsible", she said.

The fires come amid increasing divisions about climate change policy in Australia, with the conservative government resisting scientists' calls to take greater action to reduce carbon emissions. At least three people have died and 100 injured in the fires.

"It's a bit of the calm before the storm at the moment", Prime Minister Scott Morrison told 2GB radio.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, meanwhile, said linking the fires to the government's support of the coal industry was "the ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital city greenies".

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