Australia braces for ′catastrophic fire danger′ | News | DW | 12.11.2019
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Australia braces for 'catastrophic fire danger'

Authorities have warned people to take precautions and evacuate if needed, as weather conditions continue to fuel devastating bushfires in New South Wales. Over 600 schools have been forced to close across the state.

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Sydney braces for catastrophic bush fires

Millions of residents in Australia's most populous state were subject to a seven-day state of emergency, as weather conditions worsened on Tuesday. Increased heat and high winds have threatened to make the already devastating bushfires worse.

Authorities in Sydney are warning residents of "catastrophic fire danger" — the first time that designation has been assigned since fire ratings were introduced in Australia in 2009. The warning has triggered evacuations in the state of New South Wales and forced more than 600 schools across the state to close.

Three people have died and more than 150 homes have been destroyed due to the fire since Friday.

Bushfires are a common threat during Australia's hot, dry summers, but this year's outbreak has been particularly severe.

More than 1 million hectares (3,800 square miles) of forest and farmland have already burned across New South Wales this year, three times greater than the area burned last season.

'Go to safer locations'

With temperatures expected to reach 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in New South Wales on Tuesday, authorities said they were prepared but warned citizens there was only so much they could do.

"We are not going to control fires under catastrophic conditions," said Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. "They have the ability to develop and grow extremely quickly and develop into very large fires."

"Now is the time to exercise those decisions to leave, leave early and go to safer locations, safer towns and villages or safer places in your local community, such as the shopping centers."

Smoke from fires in the northern part of the state had already reached Sydney by Tuesday morning. The harbor city, home to 5 million people, is surrounded by large, dry areas of bushland.

"It's a bit of the calm before the storm at the moment," Prime Minister Scott Morrison told 2GB radio. "Nature will throw some curveballs today, no doubt."

jcg/cmk (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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