Australia Wildfires Reach 'Catastrophic' Level as Flames Become Fatal (Video)
"This is a very real emerging disaster..."
Firefighters in Australia are currently battling hundreds of wildfires, with at least nine emergency-level fires, after a “catastrophic” day of no rain. At least three people have died and 100 injured in the fires.
It is one of the worst wildfire seasons on record, prompting parliament to declare a state of emergency.
"What we've burnt through so far this bushfire season, and we haven't even reached summer ... is actually three times the amount we burnt in the total period of last season," Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott told parliament on Tuesday, CNN reported. "This is a very real emerging disaster which we need to take on and consider as being something that this state may not have ever seen before."
The fires are burning in New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state and where Sydney is located. Some small fires have broken out in Sydney suburbs, but the majority of the impact is burning in the northern part of the state.
Fire conditions have prompted the closing of schools and other businesses as the government urges people in affected areas to stay indoors.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology declared a “catastrophic” level of fire danger, the highest rating. It is the first time since the system was put in place in 2009 that Sydney has been put under a catastrophic warning.
More than two million acres of land in New South Wales have burned due to wildfires over the past few weeks, according to NPR. Hundreds of koalas are believed to have died after a wildfire tore through thousands of acres of bushland last month.
The last time New South Wales declared a state of emergency was in 2013 when 290,000 acres of land burned. At the time, officials said it was the worst state of wildfires since the early 2000s. The deadliest fire in Australia was 2009’s “Black Sunday” when 173 people and thousands of homes were destroyed. The fires burned an estimated 1.1 million acres.