Australian state declares emergency as wildfires approach Sydney

(CNA) – Australian authorities declared a seven-day state of emergency in New South Wales state Thursday (Dec 19) as a record heat wave fanned unprecedented bushfires raging across the region.

As thousands of firefighters battled blazes, temperatures neared 50 degrees Celsius in some places and authorities warned the extreme weather conditions could get even worse.

In New South Wales, Australia’s most populated state with Sydney as its capital, more than 100 bushfires were burning on Thursday, many of them out of control.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state of emergency, the second declared in the state since an early, drought-fueled bushfire season began in September, was due to “catastrophic weather conditions”.

Australia on Wednesday broke all-time heat records for the second day running, with maximum temperatures reaching an average of 41.9 degree Celsius, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Dean Narramore said the “dangerous and disastrous” heatwave was toppling dozens of “extraordinary” records across the country.

“We’re heading into a fifth or sixth day in a row where multiple places broke a record. And we’re likely to see 30 or 40 records around the country break,” he told the ABC.

Turbulent winds of up to 100km in the afternoon were expected to fan bushfires burning ever-closer to the city.

Authorities said nearly 120 fires remained ablaze by late afternoon, more than half of which are uncontrolled, and with temperatures forecast to top 45 Celsius in some areas, officials warned residents to be on high alert.