Australia on fire: 9 people killed, more than 800 homes destroyed, nearly 100 fires in NSW and hotspots in every state

Australia on fire: 9 people killed, more than 800 homes destroyed, nearly 100 fires in NSW and hotspots in every state

Nearly 100 bushfires are raging across New South Wales Australia as of December 23, 2019, at 12:00 UTC (23:00 LT), with hotspots in every state-- a fire tracker map maintained by Western Australia researchers show that blazes are also threatening areas around every major city and that the fires have ringed the entire continent. "Australia is literally on fire right now," said Richie Merzian of the Australia Institute, as nine have been killed so far and over 800 homes were destroyed. The hottest day since records began was registered on Wednesday, December 18 -- at 41.9 °C (107.4 °F).

Starting late August 2019, the Australian east coast saw a number of major bushfires across multiple states, with the worst-hit areas being central and SE Queensland, and various regions of New South Wales: the North Coast, Mid North Coast, Cessnock, the Hunter Region, the Hawkesbury northwest of Sydney, the Wollondilly southwest of Sydney, the Blue Mountains west of Sydney and the South Coast.

As of Monday, December 23, around 94 fires continue to burn across NSW, 58 are yet to be contained.

On Sunday, December 22, the NSW RFS said fires had destroyed 829 and damaged 33 homes; 62 facilities (79 damaged), and 1 925 outbuildings (827 damaged). Moreover, the fires had burnt over 3 million ha (7 million acres) and killed at least nine people with one unaccounted for.

"Bushfire smoke is affecting large parts of central and eastern NSW. On-shore winds moved the thickest smoke further inland from Sydney coast, but smoke can be seen and felt when flying over the Tasman Sea," BOM said December 22, adding that no significant rainfall was expected in the country over the next couple of months.

On Saturday, December 21, the fire service in the state of New South Wales issued warnings for much of the area surrounding Sydney. Four firefighters in NSW were treated for heat exhaustion.

Officials confirmed two fatalities in the hills outside Adelaide in the neighboring state of South Australia.

Queensland and Victoria have also been badly affected. In Sydney, residents of towns throughout the Budawang, Budderoo, Kanangra-Boyd, and the Blue Mountains national parks were told 'it's too late to leave' by authorities as alerts of catastrophic conditions have been issued.

Australia recorded its hottest day on record on Wednesday, December 18 with an average maximum temperature of 41.9 °C (107.4 °F), beating the previous record by that had been set only 24 hours earlier.

On Tuesday, December 16, the continent recorded an average of 40.9 °C (105.6 °F) beating the previous record of 40.3 °C (104.5 °F) set on January 7, 2013.

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Image credit: Antonio Vecoli

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Image credit: ESA/Sentinel-2, Antonio Vecoli

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Image credit: ESA/Sentinel-2, Antonio Vecoli

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Image credit: MyFireWatch

On Friday, December 20, seven major bushfires were burning across Southern Australia, including a massive fire that started in Cudlee Creek, a small town near Adelaide. Several fires also burned around Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city.

On Thursday, December 19, two firefighters were hailed as heroes as they died battling fires near Sydney. They were identified as Geoffrey Keaton, 32, and Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, both fathers to 19-month-old children. The two had been volunteering with the Rural Fire Service (RFS). Three other firefighters sustained burns in the accident. The state government had declared a state of emergency in NSW after record-breaking temperatures worsened the bushfires.

RFS Commissioner for New South Wales Shane Fitzsimmons said, "Catastrophic fire conditions are as bad as it gets. They are the very worst of conditions. Given we have a landscape with so much active fire burning, you have a recipe for very serious concern and a very dangerous day."

"We have seen property impacted and lost. We have 3 000 firefighters and emergency services personnel out there dealing with the fires. We will not get on top of these fires until we get some decent rain-- we have said that for weeks and months."

People are now preparing for the worst, and "everyone is very nervous about it," said Peter Dunn, a former commissioner for the Australian Capital Territory Emergency Services Authority and a member of the advocacy group, Emergency Leaders.

On December 10, a spokesperson for the NSW Department of Planning, Industry, and Environment said the current period of poor air quality is the "longest and "most widespread" in the state's history. Landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge were seen smothered in smoke.

Lightning strikes ignited a series of fires in East Gippsland on November 21, initially endangering the communities of Buchan, Buchan South, and Sunny Point.

On November 20, more than a dozen temperature records have been broken across South Australia, with the most notable being the following: 46.6 °C (115.9 °F) in Nullarbor, 44.3 °C (111.74 °F) in Parafield and Keith, 44 °C (111.2 °F) in Lameroo and Murray Bridge Airport, 43.1 °C (109.58 °F) Strathalbyn, 40.8 °C (105.44 °F) in Clare, and  40.7 °C (105.26 °F) in Hindmarsh Island, according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).

Over 100 firefighters had been sent from Western Australia as of November 14.

On November 13, a water-bombing helicopter crashed while fighting the blazes threatening the small community of Pechey in Queensland. While the Bell 214 helicopter was completely destroyed, the pilot only sustained minor injuries.

Catastrophic fire danger was declared in the Greater Sydney region for the first time on November 12, since the introduction of this level.

In late October, four bushfires burned near Scamander, Elderslie, and Lachlan in Tasmania.

On September 7, multiple out-of-control blazes threatened townships across South Eastern and Northern Queensland, destroying 11 houses at Sarabah, 7 houses at Stanthorpe and 1 house at Mareeba in Queensland.

Featured image credit:  ESA/Sentinel-2, Antonio Vecoli

Comments

Anthony 10 months ago

@C. Paul Barreira without exaggerating the situation and the situation is not new? Are you sir a politician?Or on drugs? We are in unprecedented times,weather wise,not only in Australia,but as well as all over the world. Things aren't going to get any better either,climate wise and economy wise,it's been going down hill before the gfc. Give me reality and facts,not head in the sand nonsense,wakeup! Great factual and informative website btw,keep up the good work!

C. Paul Barreira 10 months ago

" 'Australia is literally on fire right now,' said Richie Merzian of the Australia Institute." This is not true. There are more than enough fires, more than enough misery, to go round without exaggerating the situation. The situation is not new, neither the ghastly temperatures nor the dry conditions. It is difficult and appears to have several weeks to go. But exaggeration, for whatever reason or purpose, does not help.

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