Australia warns of 'Catastrophic' fire conditions amid heatwave

 12 Feb 2017 - 14:46

Australia warns of 'Catastrophic' fire conditions amid heatwave
A couple takes shelter from the heat in the shade of a tree as they look out over Sydney's Bondi Beach on February 11, 2017. AFP / William WEST


Sydney: Australian authorities ordered the evacuation of some sparsely populated rural areas of New South Wales on Sunday (Feb 12) as bushfires, fanned by extreme heat and strong winds, raged across the state, threatening homes and closing roads.
A heat wave on Australia's east coast saw temperatures hit records in some parts of the state, creating conditions that officials said were worse than those preceding Victoria's 2009 "Black Saturday" fires, Australia's worst bush fire event that killed 173 people.
"This is the worst day we have seen in the history of New South Wales when it comes to fire danger ratings and fire conditions," Shane Fitzsimmons, the state's rural fire chief, told reporters.
"They are catastrophic, they are labelled catastrophic for a reason, they are rare, they are infrequent, and to put it simply, they are off the old conventional scale.
The areas hit by fires are hundreds of kilometres from Sydney, the state capital.
Fitzsimmons said there were unconfirmed reports of homes, farm sheds and machinery being destroyed by fast-moving fires breaking containment lines.
There were no reports of injuries, but some firefighters were suffering from heat-related issues. 
Since Friday, heat wave conditions caused cancellation of major sporting events and put pressure on the electricity grid.
Australia has warmed by approximately 1.0 C since 1910, according to the biannual State of the Climate report from the Bureau of Meteorology.