Australia bushfires north of Sydney ‘too big to put out’

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EPA

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People who cannot defend their property have been told to leave immediately

A “mega blaze” raging across a 60km (37 mile) front north of the Australian city of Sydney cannot currently be put out, fire officials have warned.The blaze across 300,000 hectares (1,150 sq m) is just an hour’s drive from the nation’s most-populous city.People who cannot defend their property from approaching fires have been told they should leave immediately.Since October, bushfires have killed six people and destroyed more than 700 homes across Australia.The severity of the blazes so early in the fire season has caused alarm, and prompted calls for greater action to tackle climate change.Fires have also raged across Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.What’s the latest on the ground?Several fires have combined to form the mega blaze north of Sydney, although more than a dozen locations are affected across New South Wales.
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Media captionFirefighters flee intense flames in Sydney, in a video shared by them to show the dangers of bushfiresAt one point on Friday, nine fires had been raised to emergency level warnings, although these had decreased markedly amid a brief respite in conditions later in the day.The north Sydney blaze was sending black fumes across the city, causing a rise in medical problems.New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) deputy commissioner, Rob Rogers told ABC: “We cannot stop these fires, they will just keep burning until conditions ease, and then we’ll try to do what we can to contain them.”He said the 60km stretch from Hawkesbury to Singleton was “just fire that whole way”.Video footage from the Orangeville area showed firefighters running from a wall of fire and the Walkabout Wildlife Park has evacuated hundreds of animals.The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) also said that “some fires were too big to put out”.Fire officials in Ingleburn warned: “If your property is not prepared for the bushfire season and you’re not sure you are able or capable of defending your property if a fire approaches you need to leave straight away.”Firefighters from Canada were briefed in Sydney on Friday and will be deployed across New South Wales over the weekend, to be joined by teams from the US.What’s the outlook?There appears to be little respite.RFS founder and former commissioner, Phil Koperberg, told the Sydney Morning Herald: “People are nervous and they have a right to be… the worst is yet to come”.

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EPA

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A smoky haze has enveloped much of Sydney

Tuesday is the next big concern, with temperatures inland of Sydney likely to reach 40C plus.Some firefighters have expressed concern that volunteer numbers might not be enough and that there are inadequate water supplies.One said the fires were “all ticking time-bombs – without rain those fires won’t be put out”.Sydney may be blanketed in smoke for weeks, if not months, RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.Is this fire season particularly bad?It hasn’t come close to the fatalities of 2009, when nearly 200 people died, but the scale of the damage has been huge.How bad is bushfire smoke for health?
Toxic smoke affects golfers at Australian Open
More than 1.6 million hectares of land have burned in New South Wales alone.The season has hit earlier than normal and has been exacerbated by drought conditions.Mr Fitzsimmons said: “There is an absolute lack of moisture in the soil, a lack of moisture in the vegetation… you are seeing fires started very easily and they are spreading extremely quickly, and they are burning ridiculously intensely.”Is climate change to blame?The BOM says that climate change has led to an increase in extreme heat events and raised the severity of other natural disasters, such as drought.

Last week, the bureau noted that NSW had endured its driest spring season on record. It also warned that Australia’s coming summer was predicted to bring similar conditions to last year’s – the nation’s hottest summer on record.Australia may see 50C days ‘in decades’
Climate emergency ‘clear and unequivocal’
The government has been criticised over its efforts to address climate change. PM Scott Morrison has dismissed accusations linking the crisis to his government’s policies.Final call to halt ‘climate catastrophe’
What could be wiped out by temperature rise
Hundreds of bushfire survivors and farmers converged on the nation’s capital, Canberra, this week in protest. One woman displayed the charred remains of her home outside Parliament – on which she had written: “Morrison, your climate crisis destroyed my home.”

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Dean Sewell/ Greenpeace

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Melinda Plesman called for the government to take action on climate change

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