Australia braces for heatwave as more than 100 fires burn

Sydney: Out of control bushfires forced residents in eastern Australia to flee their homes on Saturday, as other parts of the country braced for a heatwave due next week. Bushfires are common in the country but scientists say this year’s season has come earlier and with more intensity due to a prolonged drought and climatic conditions fuelled by global warming. Scorching temperatures have tipped above 40 degrees Celsius close to where a fire was burning on the outskirts of Brisbane in Queensland state, with residents in three suburbs told to “leave immediately”.

“Conditions are now very dangerous and firefighters may soon be unable to prevent the fire advancing,” the Queensland Fire Authorities warned. “The fire may pose a threat to all lives directly in its path.”A shipping container full of fireworks exploded as the fire raged, authorities said. There were no immediate reports of injuries from the explosion. More than 100 fires were burning across Australia’s east on Saturday, including a “mega fire” burning north of Sydney.

After combining with other bushfires on Friday the huge blaze is now under control but continued to burn across 250,000 hectares within an hour’s drive of Australia’s largest city. Sydney has been engulfed in toxic smoke for weeks and occasionally sprinkled with snow-like embers. The pilot of a helicopter supporting the fire efforts was lucky to escape with just minor injuries after crashing about 200 kilometres north of the city on Saturday. — AFP