Light rain and an unexpected drop in temperatures have come as a brief respite to Australian firefighters battling more than 100 bushfires in the state of New South Wales.Firefighters were able to bring many of the fires under control around the city of Sydney, despite winds of up to 25 mph (40 km/h) fanning new blazes.”All fires in the Sydney area are contained,” said a fire official.
About 3,000 firefighters have been deployed across NSW as Australia experiences the driest conditions in 100 years.
Almost 470,000 hectares (1.16 million acres) of land have been burned in the state – one of five hit by what officials say is becoming one of Australia’s worst bushfire seasons.
Officials say the threat will remain high, with forecasters predicting an early return to high temperatures and low humidity.
Worst in a decade
“These fire conditions are the worst we have had in generations. This is as serious as it gets,” said state Premier Bob Carr at a memorial service in Sydney for firefighters who lost their lives last year.”The state is baking dry and the drought and the fire season are on us at the same time,” he said.Rural Fire Services chief Phil Koperberg said they were expecting firefighters from around Australia to arrive to relieve their colleagues in NSW.”We’re taking advantage of the lull in other states by inviting them to assist us, thus allowing some of our very, very stressed fellows to get some rest,” Mr Koperberg said.A total fire ban has been declared across the state and many national parks have been closed.
In the Hunter Valley wine district, 75 miles (120 km) north of Sydney, winds have pushed flames across 61,000 hectares (151,000 acres) near the town of Cessnock.Residents near the fire front were hosing down their homes in case the blaze leapt containment lines set by firefighters, but no evacuations had been ordered, the Associated Press news agency reported.To the south, the fire which destroyed five homes and several industrial properties around the town of Mittagong on Saturday continued to burn.