A bushfire rages near the rural town of Canungra in the Scenic Rim region of South East Queensland on Friday. Regi Varghese/ Reuters
Strong winds fanned bushfires in two Australian states on Monday, with flames out of control in some areas ravaging thousands of hectares of land, fire services officials said.
The heavy winds also hit flights into Sydney, the country’s busiest airport, where one runway was shut for three hours on Monday morning, Air Services Australia said.
Bushfires have started earlier than normal in the states of Queensland and New South Wales, in the southern hemisphere spring, prompting fire service warnings for the summer, which runs from December through February.
“This early in the season is unprecedented,” said Neil Gallant, deputy commissioner of the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, following two years of drought that have left extensive parts of the country parched.
“But if this is what it’s like now, we really are concerned that over the next few months we’re going to get no respite from these sorts of bushfire conditions,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corp TV.
As of Monday, five properties had been confirmed destroyed, with five damaged in New South Wales (NSW), while more than 200 homes fires were saved from the flames, the NSW Rural Fire Service said.
The Bureau of Meteorology warned of damaging winds, with peak gusts of about 90 kilometres an hour (56 mph), along the east coast of New South Wales for Monday. The wind was expected to ease on Tuesday.
Winds are being driven by a deep low pressure system over the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand and a high pressure system off the south coast in the Great Australian Bight, the bureau said.
It released an enormous pressure wave that traversed the planet, travelling at supersonic speed at about 1,231 kilometres per hour (764 miles per hour), New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research said.
Dozens of bushfires raged out of control across eastern Australia on Friday, blocking escape routes for residents and shuttering the main highway linking major cities on the country’s Pacific coast.
Dozens of wild fires burned across Australia’s east coast on Saturday and firefighters scrambled to shore up defences ahead of hotter weather expected next week.
Calls for Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to resign have littered social media platforms after it was revealed he was holidaying in Hawaii while the country battled a bushfire emergency and his return has failed to douse the criticism.
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