Australia headed for hottest January on record | News | DW | 25.01.2019
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Australia headed for hottest January on record

Australia's week-long heat wave has triggered power cuts around Melbourne as the midday temperature soared to 42.8 Celsius (109 Fahrenheit). Outdoor play at its tennis Open was suspended for a second day running.

Watch video 01:08

Australia suffers heat wave

Power authorities imposed sequential electricity cuts on households and businesses across Melbourne Friday as firefighters braced for wildfires across Australia's scorched southeast.

Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio conceded that the mainly coal and gas-fired power grid that supplies Melbourne and surrounding Victoria state, home to 6.3 million, was "not up to the task today."

Some 30,000 premises were switched off for up to two hours at a time in what Australia's Energy Market Operator called an "involuntary load reduction."

Some 100 Melbourne traffic lights were reportedly left without power. In the town of Portland, an aluminum smelter was ordered to ease back on its power consumption.

Relief was brought late afternoon by thunderstorms and accompanying wind changes that saw temperatures drop.

But, longer-term, the federal Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) continued to post severe heat wave warnings through into next week after predicting that January was set to become Australia's hottest January on record.

"The heatwaves we have had since the start of [southern hemisphere] summer are almost unprecedented," said senior BoM meteorologist Kevin Parkin, who described days of 40-plus degrees followed by warm nights as "relentless."

Watch video 01:20

Record heat leads to die-off of Australia's fish

Melbourne, a metropolitan hub of 4.5 million, listed locations, such as cinemas, shopping centers and pools, where residents could seek respite and urged them to use drinking fountains to avoid dehydration.

Victoria state health authorities said residents most at risk were "older people, young children and people with a medical condition."

At the Australian tennis Open fans made use of umbrellas and sprinklers spewing water mist.

Fans cool off in the hot conditions during day 11 of the 2019 Australian Open

Fans cool off in the hot conditions during the 2019 Australian Open

Play on outside courts was suspended for a second day running.

Black Saturday 2009

Hundreds of firefighters as well as aviation crews remained on standby across Victoria, where many recall Black Saturday (February 7, 2009) when bushfires killed 173 people and razed more than 2,000 homes.

On Friday, campers were being warned to avoid bushfires reported in Victoria's eastern East Gippsland region, notably the settlement of Timbarra. BoM said the smoke plume extended east over Bass Strait.

South of Victoria, on Australia's island state of Tasmania, fire official Andrew McGuinness said fire conditions were "quite nasty," with eight fiery hotspots across the landscape.

On Thursday, Adelaide, 640 kilometers (400 miles) east of Melbourne and the capital of the state of South Australia, recorded the hottest day for a major Australian city, a searing 46.6 Celsius (115.9 Fahrenheit).

ipj/rt (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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