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Evacuation order given as bush fires rage across NSW

SYDNEY Australian authorities ordered the evacuation of sparsely populated rural areas of New South Wales (NSW) yesterday as bush fires, fanned by extreme heat and winds, raged across the state, threatening homes and closing roads.

A heatwave on Australia's east coast saw temperatures hitting record high in some parts of the state, creating conditions that officials said were worse than those preceding Victoria's Black Saturday fires in 2009.

That was Australia's worst bush fire that killed 173 people.

"This is the worst day we have seen in the history of NSW when it comes to fire danger ratings and fire conditions," Mr Shane Fitzsimmons, the state's rural fire chief, told reporters.

The affected areas are hundreds of kilometres from Sydney, the state capital.

Mr Fitzsimmons said there were unconfirmed reports of homes, farm sheds and machinery being destroyed by fast-moving fires breaking containment lines.

There were no reports of injuries, but some firefighters suffered from heat-related issues.

More than 2,500 firefighters, many of them volunteers, battled 86 fires across NSW yesterday afternoon - more than 30 fires are out of control.

A 13-year-old boy and a 40-year-old man were charged on Sunday for allegedly starting fires.

Temperatures climbed above 45 deg C in some parts.

Dry and hot north-westerly winds coming from the desert interior, some up to 75km an hour, are said to be fanning the bush fires.

- REUTERS

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