Australian firefighters have spent Sunday trying to contain bushfires as authorities warn that widespread fire danger on Tuesday will stretch their ability to protect people. Three have already perished since Friday. South Africans in New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland are bracing themselves for worse conditions, as several fires rage across the Aussie states during “tinder-box” conditions. The fires are so huge that SAPeople followers in New Zealand can see the smoke in their skies. (See photos below.)
SAPeople follower Cecile Price, in Australia, said: “We are right near some major fires… all around us. Living in the bush in a van… so holding thumbs. Been watching and waiting for evacuation orders!!! Bloody hell, who would have thought. Missing the UK cold!!”
The NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) said on Sunday that they were expecting severe and extreme fire danger across broad parts of Australia’s most populous state, including near the nation’s largest city, Sydney.
“With so many fires already burning, homes and lives will be at risk,” the NSW RFS said on Twitter.
with so many fires… Homes and lives will be at risk… you may not get help
“If you are threatened by fire, you may not get help.”
Bushfires in NSW have killed three people since Friday, when a record number of emergency-level fires were declared in the state.
At least 150 homes have been destroyed and, although five people were missing on Saturday afternoon, Sky News reported on Sunday morning that those people were now accounted for.
More than 70 fires were burning in NSW on Sunday morning and while none were at an emergency level, 36 were not under control.
Further north in Queensland, more than 50 fires were burning Sunday morning and a fire ban was declared across 42 local areas in the state, prohibiting the lighting of any outdoor fires and banning certain activities that can cause fires to ignite.
“We’re experiencing tinder box-like conditions across much of the state and all it takes is one spark to start a fire that may burn for days,” Queensland Fire and Emergency Services acting commissioner Mike Wassing said in a statement.
According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, almost 5,000 homes have been evacuated in Queensland over the last 48 hours, with many residents unable to return.
SAPeople follower Laetitia Corder, who lives in New Zealand, said: “Tragic. Our skies have been orange and hazy in the south of NZ 😢.”
Clare Harvey in Australia said: “Wow… I am not surprised that the smoke has reached New Zealand. I am in Queensland north of the fires. It is catastrophic with a third of the state declared a national emergency. Temperatures are well above average and the lack of any rain is unprecedented. Some towns are now beginning to truck in water for the town. These fires have just compounded that reduced water supply.”
Giselle Fasher thanked SAPeople followers for their prayers and said fortunately: “We’re not in the danger zone but the smoke haze is everywhere. We desperately need rain 🙏☔”
Natalia Holmes said: “I live in Port Macquarie and unfortunately we are bracing ourselves for worse to come by Tuesday.” Some suburbs near Natalia have been evacuated. She says “There’s a great community spirit here. Everyone is standing together to help anyone that needs help.”
(Reporting by Will Ziebell and Jenni Baxter; editing by Jonathan Oatis/Reuters and Jenni Baxter/SAPeople)