Heatwave alert: fears of Ash Wednesday repeat

Heatwave alert: fears of Ash Wednesday repeat

27 January 2009

published by www.theage.com.au

Australia — Premier John Brumby has warned of a horror day for fires across Victoria tomorrow, with fears dry thunderstorms and lightning strikes could spark blazes in already-dry areas in the state’s north.

Strong winds are also likely tomorrow, and the combination of blustery conditions and electrical storms could prove disastrous in terms of the bushfire threat, Mr Brumby said.

“Tomorrow will be a much worse day,” he said. “You are likely to see temperatures in the low 40s in many parts of the state and wind activity will pick up.”

The Premier said that the electricity network would be under stress but should be able to cope with the additional demand caused buy the extreme conditions.

“If you have those conditions and with no unforeseen events we will get through tomorrow with adequate power supply and adequate power services.”

He said that so far, the state was coping well, with some increased demand on the health system and the power grid, but both were coping.

Melbourne’s hottest ever January day was 45.6 degrees on January 13, 1939, while its highest minimum temperature for the month was 28.8 on January 21, 1997.

‘Unprecedented week’ for Victoria

Emergency services are on high alert, with paramedics preparing for heat-related deaths and firefighters fearing a repeat of the devastating Ash Wednesday fires. 

A total fire ban has been declared today across most of the state and about 100,000 volunteer and staff firefighters are on standby.

The heat’s already felled several people, including defending Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic, who was unable to finish a match at Rod Laver Arena yesterday

The elderly, chronically ill, babies and pregnant women are among the high risk groups.. and people should ensure they drink lots of water, stay indoors or in shade and avoid alcohol and vigorous exercise.

Victorians are also being urged to check on vulnerable neighbours and not to leave babies or pets in cars.

Mr Brumby yesterday warned that Victorians were “facing an unprecedented week for our state” with temperatures expected to be in the low 40s for the rest of the week.

He said many parts of the state faced hot and arduous conditions with a zero prospect of rain.

“This means it will be a difficult period for us in many ways,” Mr Brumby said.

Mr Brumby  reassured Victorians that emergency services had taken steps to ensure they were properly prepared.

There should be adequate power for the week and electricity companies had put on extra maintenance staff to deal with any problems arising from extra demand, he said.

‘Community must prepare’

The Premier also warned of a heightened bushfire risk and said bushfires could start and move quickly.

He said the most important thing was for families to have a fire plan.

The Premier said children, the elderly, and people with illnesses were at particular risk from the extreme weather conditions and called on neighbours to keep a watchful eye on the most vulnerable in their communities and for people to keep up their intake of fluids.

Victoria’s Emergency Services Co-ordinator Bruce Esplin said emergency services were on high alert and ready for a bushfire scenario similar to that faced in 1983.

But Mr Esplin said there was concern that people in outer Melbourne were not as prepared as they needed to be.

“The community needs to be there with us,” he said.

He said people needed to know where to get information in an emergency and can not expect to be immediately notified of any danger.

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