Australia swelters through heat wave as bushfire risk grows

Australia swelters through heat wave as bushfire risk grows
Australia swelters through heat wave as bushfire risk grows

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - A New South Wales Rural Fire Service firetruck is seen at a hazard reduction burn site in Sydney, Australia September 10, 2023. ― Reuters file pic

SYDNEY, Dec 9 ― Australia's southeast today sweated through a heat wave that raised the risk of bushfires and led authorities to ban fires in large parts of New South Wales state.

The nation's weather forecaster predicted a maximum temperature in Sydney, the capital of Australia's most populous state New South Wales, on Saturday of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), almost 15 degrees above the average December high for the city.

At Observatory Hill in the centre of Sydney, the temperature was 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) at 11.00am (00:00 GMT) on Saturday, according to forecaster data.

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Speaking in Sydney, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said it was “a time to ensure that we look after each other and stay safe”.

“Today in Sydney, and in other parts of the east coast, it's a reminder that there just might be something in this climate change stuff,” Albanese said, according to an official transcript.

The heat heightens the risk of bushfires amid an already high-risk fire season due to an El Nino weather event, typically associated with extremes such as wildfires, cyclones and droughts.

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New South Wales fire authorities said on social media platform X that a total fire ban was in place for large swaths of the state, including Sydney, given “very hot, dry and windy conditions” forecast.

There were more than 50 grass and bushfires burning across New South Wales on Saturday morning, according to the state's rural fire service.

In a warning on Friday the weather forecaster said “severe heat wave conditions” would continue across much of New South Wales into next week, with peak temperatures predicted through the weekend.

Australia's last two fire seasons have been quiet compared with the catastrophic 2019-2020 “Black Summer” that destroyed an area the size of Turkey and killed 33 people. ― Reuters

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