Heatwave threatens to stoke Australia's deadly bushfires despite containment efforts

Heatwave threatens to stoke Australia's deadly bushfires despite containment efforts

A fallen tree rests on a burned car
FILE PHOTO: A fallen tree rests on a burned car after a wildfire destroyed the Kangaroo Valley Bush Retreat in Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales, Australia. (Photo: REUTERS/Thomas Peter)

SYDNEY: Firefighters will struggle to contain deadly fires as soaring temperature and strong winds stoke the threat of more blazes across Australia's east coast, authorities said on Friday (Jan 31). 

Since September, Australia has been battling bushfires that have killed 33 people and an estimated one billion native animals, while 2,500 homes as more than 11.7 million hectares across Australia's most populous states has been burned.

With temperatures across New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria states set to approach 40 degrees Celsius on Friday, authorities said several fires could spread despite recent efforts by firefighters to remove flammable fuels.

"We've done a huge amount of work this week ... but there are some areas that are exposed," Rob Rogers, NSW Rural Fire Service deputy commissioner told Sky News. "The threat is severe over the weekend."

Bushfires are common in Australia’s hot, dry summers, but the ferocity and early arrival of the fires in the southern hemisphere spring is unprecedented. Experts have said climate change has left bushland extremely dry.

The crisis has put pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who critics say has not done enough to address the impact of climate change.

Keen to dampen public anger, Morrison on Friday pledged funding for emissions reduction projects as part of a AUS$2 billion (£1.04 billion) package to increase gas supplies in NSW.

Morrison said the extra gas will stabilise the NSW electricity grid, allowing for greater renewable energy generation.

Here are Friday key events in the bushfire crisis:

- NSW firefighters were tackling 53 fires. All of the fires were at the lower warning levels.

- There are 18 fires burning across Victoria state. Authorities told locals close to one fire to be ready to evacuate.

- In South Australia state there are 19 fires, none of which pose an immediate threat to properties.

Source: Reuters/de