Photo taken on Thursday shows a large bushfire burning 20,000 hectares in the Wollemi National Park near Lithgow, Sydney. David Gray/ AFP
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.
More than 90 blazes pockmarked the New South Wales countryside, 50 of them uncontained, tearing through tens of thousands of hectares.
“We are in uncharted territory,” New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told public broadcaster ABC. “We have never seen this many fires concurrently at emergency warning level.”
Authorities said fires had breached containment lines and forced the closure of the Pacific Highway linking Sydney and Brisbane in two places.
Emergency warnings were introduced for 14 flashpoints, bringing warnings to evacuate immediately.
In some areas, residents were told to simply “seek shelter as it is too late to leave.”
Local radio stopped normal programming and provided instructions about how to try to survive fires if trapped at home or in a vehicle.
A prolonged drought, strong winds, low humidity and high temperatures have conspired to make the landscape a tinderbox.
“It’s a very dynamic, volatile and dangerous set of circumstances,” said Fitzsimmons.
Bushfires are common in Australia, but the country is gearing up for busy bushfire season with record temperatures predicted for the summer months.
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.
A 12-year-old boy started a bushfire and two teenage girls were questioned over another blaze in Australia’s Queensland state, police said on Tuesday as forest fires forced hundreds of people to flee their homes in the country’s east.
Hundreds of koalas are feared to have burned to death in an out-of-control bushfire on Australia’s east coast, wildlife authorities said on Wednesday. A bushfire believed to have been sparked by a lightning strike on Saturday some 400
Britain's government on Wednesday faced a backlash over its new post-Brexit immigration plans, which are designed to cut "cheap labour from Europe" in favour of high-skilled English speakers and boosting the homegrown workforce.
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