Australia firefighters race to beat rising heat

Australian firefighters raced to control a series of blazes on Thursday before a forecast rise in temperatures brings the risk of more infernos, as dramatic accounts of survival emerged.

Fires have been raging across southeast Australia for nearly a week. While many have been contained, 120 are still burning and at least 17 remain out of control in the country's most populous state, New South Wales.

Cooler weather that brought some relief on Wednesday continued in many parts Thursday. But temperatures are set to soar again to well over 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) on Friday, piling pressure on firefighters.

In Tasmania residents of the fishing village of Dunalley, where 90 homes and businesses were destroyed, could be allowed to go home Friday, police said, as gripping stories of survival emerged.

"We saw tornadoes of fire just coming across towards us and the next thing we knew everything was on fire, everywhere all around us," Tim Holmes, who took refuge in the sea under a jetty with his five young grandchildren, told the ABC.

"We were all just heads, water up to our chins just trying to breathe because... the atmosphere was so incredibly toxic."

The family survived but are now homeless.

NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said crews were working flat-out containing blazes before the heat returned.

"It's about focusing on getting as much contained and consolidated as we can ahead of a return to hotter and dryer conditions dominating much of NSW over the coming days," Fitzsimmons told ABC television.

"We're looking at temperatures across much of NSW into low-to-mid 40s and extending into the high 40s on Saturday.

"The only reprieve, if you can call it that, is that we are not expecting significant wind strengths to build."

The blazes have scorched more than 350,000 hectares (865,000 acres) of land in New South Wales alone, with one fire burning just two kilometres (1.2 miles) from a former weapons range littered with unexploded bombs.

The 5,840-hectare Deans Gap fire is near the Tianjara plateau which, until the mid-1970s, was used by the army as a practice bombing range.

"If it was required they'd be looking to put in a firebreak in that area," a New South Wales Rural Fire Service spokeswoman told AFP.

Were the flames to reach the plateau south of Sydney, it could complicate firefighting efforts, with the unexploded bombs making water-drops impossible.

The fires are so large they can be seen from space, with astronaut Chris Hadfield uploading images of "streamers of smoke visible all across the country" to Twitter from the International Space Station.

While more than 100 homes were razed by fires in Tasmania state last weekend, only a handful have since been destroyed nationwide and no deaths have been reported.

The biggest impact has been on farmers, with vast amounts of pasture, crops and animal feed lost, as well as thousands of head of stock and sheds and outbuildings.

One of the worst-hit areas is Yass Shire west of Canberra where a fire has so far burnt out 16,000 hectares and killed 10,000 sheep.

As well as New South Wales, fires continue to burn in the states of Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland.

Wildfires are a fact of life in arid Australia, where 173 people died in the 2009 Black Saturday firestorm, the nation's worst natural disaster of modern times.

Most are ignited naturally, but in Sydney's west three teenage boys were charged with deliberately lighting a fire on Tuesday, and on Wednesday a man was charged after sparks from his angle grinder caused a blaze.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Sandigan OKs hospital stay for GMA co-accused
    Sandigan OKs hospital stay for GMA co-accused

    The Sandiganbayan has allowed a government official, accused with plunder along with former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to undergo a medical procedure at a hospital tomorrow. The anti-graft court permitted former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) board member Benigno Aguas to undergo a cardiopulmonary/endocrine clearance at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City. …

  • Sandigan recommends executive clemency for ex-envoy
    Sandigan recommends executive clemency for ex-envoy

    The Sandiganbayan has recommended executive clemency for a former Philippine ambassador to Nigeria who was sentenced to 52 years for malversation of public funds. The Sandiganbayan First Division found Masaranga Umpa guilty of misusing the Assistance-To-Nationals Stand-by Funds totaling $80,478.80 in 2007, but the anti-graft court said the former assemblyman from Lanao del Norte should be pardoned. …

  • Stargazing at the mall highlights Earth Hour
    Stargazing at the mall highlights Earth Hour

    It was a night of stargazing in 58 SM Supermalls all over the country last night as these establishments participated in Earth Hour, an annual worldwide movement encouraging communities and establishments to switch off lights for one hour to raise global awareness of overuse of non-renewable resources. The Philippines has been an active participant of Earth Hour since 2008. Last night, in the province of Bulacan, for instance, all parishes, diocesan institutions, schools and household …

  • Payanig privatization hit
    Payanig privatization hit

    BLEMP Commercial of the Philippines, Inc. (BLEMP) denounced the recent announcement of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to privatize the 18.4-hectare “Payanig sa Pasig” property. In a statement sent to The STAR, BLEMP lawyer Dennis Manalo said the PCGG has no right to auction the property because it has no valid title and is not in possession. The PCGG has not paid a single centavo in real property taxes for the property, he said. He narrated that it was in the early 70s …

  • New species of tarantula found
    New species of tarantula found

    Scientists from the Museum of Natural History (MNH) of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños have discovered a new species of cave-dwelling tarantula on an island off the coast of Quezon. The new species of the spider, Phlogiellus kwebaburdeos, was described in the recent issue of the Philippine Journal of Systematic Biology by MNH curators for spiders Aimee Lynn Dupo and Alberto Barrion along with their former student Joseph Rasalan. The tarantula was discovered by Rasalan during one …

  • Palm Sunday: Do not add to suffering of others
    Palm Sunday: Do not add to suffering of others

    As Christendom enters Holy Week today, Palm Sunday, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) yesterday called on the faithful not to add to the sufferings of their fellowmen. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Public Affairs (ECPA), said that while Palm Sunday is oftentimes remembered as the glorious arrival of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, it also signals the start of the Holy Week that tells of His suffering, death and …

  • Miriam pushes tougher graft law
    Miriam pushes tougher graft law

    Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has filed a bill that would make public officials liable for violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act even if they are elected to a fresh term or a new position. In filing Senate Bill 2716, Santiago sought to address what she said was the doctrine of condonation in Philippine jurisprudence brought about by the 2010 case of Salumbides vs. Ombudsman. “By merely asserting the doctrine of condonation, erring elective officials are automatically given a …

  • Phl hits back at China over sea infra work
    Phl hits back at China over sea infra work

    The Philippines assailed China yesterday for contesting Manila’s planned repair and maintenance works on some islands in the West Philippine Sea, saying they are “in no way comparable” to the Asian power’s massive reclamation activities which are in violation of international laws. “The Philippines’ possible undertaking of necessary maintenance and repairs on its existing facilities in the West Philippine Sea, over which the Philippines rightfully exercises sovereignty, sovereign rights and …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options