World

Aussie army urges residents to leave as heatwave brings renewed misery

Soldiers go door to door in Parndana town on Kangaroo Island; heatwave expected to bring renewed misery

SYDNEY : Bush fires flared in southern Australia yesterday as a heatwave expected to bring renewed misery set in, and officials warned some areas are "just at the beginning" of the crisis.

Soldiers went door to door advising residents to leave the South Australian town of Parndana on Kangaroo Island after a large blaze bore down on the area, with temperatures there soaring to 38 deg C.

That came less than 24 hours after police evacuated the picturesque island's Vivonne Bay community, which by yesterday afternoon was also being threatened by fires that were expected to burn for days to come.

"The conditions are such that it is continuing to present a significant risk to the firefighters who are working hard to control the fires, and to anyone else in the vicinity," South Australia Country Fire Service chief Mark Jones said.

In neighbouring Victoria state, officials extended a "state of disaster" declaration for a further 48 hours ahead of scorching temperatures due to set in today, further stoking massive fires.

"It's a very dangerous and dynamic situation that will confront us over the next 12, 24 and 36 hours," Victoria Emergency Management commissioner Andrew Crisp said.

The catastrophic bush fires have killed at least 26 people, destroyed more than 2,000 homes and scorched some eight million ha - an area the size of the island of Ireland.

Scientists say the drought-fuelled blazes are being worsened by climate change, which is increasing the length and intensity of Australia's fire season.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews warned residents to brace for further devastation in what has already been a months-long crisis.

"We're just at the beginning of what will be a really, really challenging summer," he said.

Despite cooler weather and rainfall providing some relief in some bush fire-affected areas this week, almost 150 fires were still burning in worst-hit New South Wales and Victoria, the huge continent's most populated regions.

Vast tracts of the states are facing "severe" fire danger today, with some areas expected to experience "extreme" conditions.

"Don't get complacent with the rain that we've seen," Victoria Police Minister Lisa Neville said. "These fires are absolutely still moving, still growing in our landscape and they pose significant risk to communities."

Firefighters have been taking advantage of this week's milder weather as they race to contain bush fires.

SPARK

They have been clearing vegetation and carrying out controlled burns in an effort to protect areas like the coastal town of Eden, where a large bush fire is burning to the south.

"It only takes a spark to get a fire burning, and that is our concern for tomorrow," Rural Fire Service superintendent John Cullen told a local council briefing.

Bush fire smoke has shrouded Australia's major cities in toxic haze for weeks, causing major public health concerns.

The smoke has also travelled more than 12,000km to Brazil and Argentina, according to weather authorities there.

Australia experienced its driest and hottest year on record in 2019, with its highest average maximum temperature of 41.9 deg C. - AFP

WORLD