‘Catastrophic’ wildfires rip through South Australia and New South Wales, death toll continues to climb

by Editorial Team

“Catastrophic” wildfires spurred by a massive heat wave ripped through swaths of New South Wales and South Australia, claiming the lives of firefighters and residents alike and injuring dozens more.

A strong and cooling wind blew through New South Wales on Saturday – lowering temperatures but increasing the likelihood that the fires will spread, meteorologists said. Australia’s most populous state has been in a seven-day state of emergency, with around 2,000 firefighters battling back an estimated 100 wildfires.

Sydney saw no reprieve in heat however and faced temperatures topping 47 degrees Celsius or 115 Fahrenheit. At least three major blazes surrounding the capital city were burning at emergency level.

“We are in a period of unbelievable drought and some areas haven’t seen rain for more than 12 months,” NSW Rural Fire Services Inspector Ben Shepherd told the BBC.

“These fires are likely to continue to spread well past Christmas.”

A “Catastrophic Fire Danger” alert – the highest danger rating – was issued for most most of New South Wales in eastern Australia, including the Sydney area. Several other spots were placed under “extreme” fire danger.

“Catastrophic fire conditions are as bad as it gets,” New South Wales Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters.

“Given we have a landscape with so much active fire burning, you have a recipe for very serious concern and in a very dangerous way.”

Authorities confirmed on Saturday one person died and 15 homes were destroyed in South Australia after a blaze swept through Adelaide Hills on Friday. Another person was critically injured attempting to save his home.

It comes after a 24-year-old was killed in a road crash in South Australia, which sparked a fire in the area of the Murraylands on Friday.

Two firefighters also died while battling blazes southwest of Sydney on Thursday and another 23 firefighters and police officers have been injured since emergency conditions were sparked earlier this week.

The devastation has prompted the hurried return of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who had been on family holiday in Hawaii. The vacation earned him the ire of citizens as the wildfire crisis continued to worsen.

READ FROM SOURCE: https://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/ny-catastrophic-wildfires-australia-new-south-wales-death-toll-20191221-e64q5eo7o5bf5dcpfzriru5eqe-story.html

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