Australian authorities have declared a state of emergency in several areas of eastern Australia by active forest fires since last week and since Tuesday affecting the periphery of Sydney.

At least three people have died and some 100 have been injured, including 20 firefighters, by the fires, which have burned some 200 buildings.

The Rural Fire Service said Tuesday that 85 outbreaks remain active, more than half out of control and at least 14 of them at emergency level.

Some 3,000 troops fight the flames in a day with “catastrophic” conditions, in which temperatures are expected to reach 37 degrees and gusts of wind up to 65 kilometers per hour.

“The behavior of the flames in front of the forest fires is being strengthened by the hot and dry winds,” said Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, warning that the worst conditions are expected in the late afternoon-night.

The smoke can still be perceived when driving along the Pacific Highway, which runs along the east coast, where in some long stretches you can see how the fire jumped the road and razed both sides.

The town of Johns River, some 275 kilometres north of Sydney, sits on one of the areas hardest hit by the fires and where a woman died in the flames.

Since the beginning of the year, fires have burned more than 9,000 square kilometers, an area similar to the surface of Puerto Rico and double the area burned during the February 2009 fires in the state of Victoria (southeast) that caused 173 deaths and 414 injuries – the worst lived in the oceanic country in decades.

The season of fires in Australia varies according to the zone and the meteorological conditions although they are generally registered in the austral summer (between the months of December and March).

In recent years, forest fires in Australia – which this year has also suffered a severe drought – have increased in intensity and experts link this virulence to the effects of climate change.

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