New blazes break out as Australians take shelter from intense bushfires

Cheryl Sanders
November 14, 2019

"We will not have all these fires contained and locked up for many, many weeks", said Shane Fitzsimmons, New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner.

About 150 fires are still burning in New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland, feeding off tinder-dry conditions.

A cool change on Wednesday brought relief for firefighters battling massive bushfires in eastern Australia which destroyed 50 homes and saw flames come within metres of homes on the outskirts of Sydney.

Mr Fitzsimmons said: "We've really got a long way to go". However three people have died since the fires ramped up on Friday and more than 300 homes have been destroyed since that time.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian is warning "today is not the day for complacency" as a "catastrophic fire danger rating" is in place across Sydney and parts of New South Wales.

"Conditions are now very risky and firefighters may soon be unable to prevent the fire advancing", Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) said in the emergency warning.

Tough conditions were expected to flare again in Queensland and New South Wales at the weekend as the temperature rises and winds pick up.

New South Wales Police said they had begun investigating whether a small number of the blazes had been deliberately lit, as they made handful of arrests for suspected looting of fire-stricken properties.

"It is too late to leave on most of these fires and sheltering is now your only option as fire approaches", Mr Fitzsimmons said.

But the mayor of Glen Innes - a town ravaged by the fires - has called on the government to listen to science.

"Then as the southerly winds move through, the direction of the fire front will change, so this really is a risky situation", she said. "Better safe than sorry".

"Fires are going to spread quickly and embers will be carried well ahead of any ongoing fires", meteorologist Andrea Pace said.

Sydneysiders woke up to a city shrouded in smoke. "The first sign of a fire front and we'll be out", she added.

Winds reached 80kmh in some areas and were expected to gather pace.

"The Illawarra/Shoalhaven is now forecast to experience a catastrophic fire danger as will Greater Sydney and Greater Hunter".

Bushfires continue to ravage southeast Australia.

Coombes, who lives about 10 km (6 miles) outside town, said he would likely lose his home because it was in the anticipated path of the fire.

In Sydney, home to five million people, health authorities urged people with respiratory issues to stay indoors because the city was covered by a "hazardous" smoky haze.

More than 3,000 firefighters are tackling the flames across Australia, bolstered by crews from other states, New Zealand and the Australian Defence Force. World Meteorological Organization spokeswoman Clare Nullis told reporters in Geneva that "catastrophic" was the top of the danger scale in Australia, and probably anywhere.

She said the organisation believes there were 500-600 koalas in the area and 2/3 of their habitat had been burnt in the previous set of fires.

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