Australia braces for heavy winds, lightning amid bushfire threat

Cheryl Sanders
November 17, 2019

Australian firefighters struggled to control blazes across the nation's parched east coast ahead of a forecast of renewed strong winds and higher temperatures that are likely to fan the flames.

Severe fire danger conditions are expected to continue in NSW on Sunday where about 60 bush and grass fires are still burning, according to NSW Rural Fire Service.

The state of New South Wales, where 367 homes have been lost in the past week, reported 56 fires burning with about half yet to be contained, fire services said.

As of this morning, there were almost 70 active bushfires in New South Wales, and a state of fire emergency has been called.

In this image made from video, huge plumes of smoke billow from trees on fire in Gospers Mountain, New South Wales, Australia, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019.

Backburns are fires deliberately lit to clear dry undergrowth to protect properties and keep the fire from spreading.

Four people have been killed and more than 300 homes destroyed in devastating bushfires that have razed more than one million hectares (2.5 million acres) along the eastern seaboard in just over a week.

"We're doing what we can for our fellow Aussies while still maintaining resources on the home front, which have been much needed in the past few days", the Western Australia Department of Fire and Emergency Services said on social media.

Tuesday is expected to see temperatures nearing 40C in the Hunter region, with the mid-north coast getting into the high 30s and the northern tablelands experiencing the low 30s - all amid continued dry conditions.

Most national parks on the mid-to-north coast of the state, including in the northern Blue Mountains will remain closed until further notice as fire danger remains very high to severe, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage said on Twitter. Bushfire conditions are continuing to deteriorate as extremely hot air is pushed across the state.

The bushfire season has begun earlier than usual, in the southern hemisphere spring, and is expected to be long and brutal this year as a three-year drought has left broad swathes of Australia's east and west more susceptible to fire.

Authorities believe arsonists are behind several other bushfires across badly-hit New South Wales as well as in neighbouring Queensland, and have appealed to the public for information leading to more arrests.

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