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Bushfires rage across Australia as spring temperatures soar

Bushfire, New South Wales, 26th Oct (Ash Hogan)Bushfire, New South Wales, 26th Oct (Ash Hogan)Scores of bushfires are currently raging in Australia, particularly along the coasts of New South Wales (NSW), Queensland and Victoria. As a result of a combination of strong winds, low humidity and record high temperatures, fire danger warnings in several parts of NSW—including, for the first time ever, the greater Sydney area—have reached the highest category: "catastrophic". With 59 separate fires burning across the state this week, many of them still not under control by firefighters, approximately 600 schools have been closed. Thousands of residents have been warned to leave their homes, with local police helping to evacuate them (see video below). At least six people have died and more than 600 homes have been destroyed. At various times, a smoke haze has blanketed Sydney.

Police evacuate residents (Queensland Police)

House damaged by bushfires in 2009 (N. Carson)House damaged by bushfires in 2009 (N. Carson)

Extent of damage

While deaths have so far been mercifully few, this year's bushfires have, since early September, burned a land area of around 1,600,000 hectares (4,000,000 acres) across NSW and Queensland. This figure is more than the past three bushfire seasons in total, and the highest since the 1984–85 season—and there are several summer months, when outbreaks are normally at their most frequent, still to come. Experts are forecasting a potentially devastating bushfire summer.



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