Aust heatwave sparks bushfire and power risks

Aust heatwave sparks bushfire and power risks

15 January 2014

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Australia — The heatwave gripping Australia’s southern states is set to wreak further havoc, with more bushfires feared, power outages likely and air pollution expected.

The mercury peaked at more than 40 degrees throughout much of Victoria on Wednesday, the second day of an extended hot spell not tipped to end until Friday night.

Charlton was the hottest place in Victoria, reaching a scorching maximum of 46.2C.

In NSW, temperatures soared to 44C in Deniliquin in the Riverina region on Wednesday while Ivanhoe in the central west climbed to 43C.

In South Australia, meteorologists have their eyes firmly fixed on the thermometer, with record-breaking temperatures possible on Thursday.

The city is forecast to have a top of 46C, perilously close to the record of 46.1C set on January 12, 1939.

Authorities are considering cutting power to 100,000 homes in Victoria as the state struggles with severe heat.

Energy and Resources Minister Nicholas Kotsiras said forced blackouts were possible as the high temperatures put the national electricity network under serious strain.

Victoria, with the potential to affect 100,000 homes and businesses.

A statement from AEMO said both Victoria and South Australia had this week recorded their highest demand for electricity since 2009.

Further south in Tasmania, authorities are warning of dangerous fire conditions for the state on Friday.

The hot conditions are likely to ease temporarily on Thursday, but the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) says Hobart will reach 38C on Friday, when a total fire ban is likely.

NSW Health has issued an air pollution alert for Thursday, when ozone levels are tipped to be high in Sydney.

NSW Health says pollution from car exhausts and industrial fumes get worse on hot and still days.

The sweltering temperatures have been coupled with lightning storms in Victoria, with strikes sparking 256 fires overnight Tuesday.

The SA Country Fire Service has been fighting a string of fires in the Adelaide Hills, the mid-north, the southeast and across Eyre Peninsula.

Fifteen fires are still going and total fire bans are in place.

A total fire ban is also in place for the ACT on Thursday with highs of 39C forecast for the capital.

BOM acting regional director John Nairn said cloud cover had prevented Adelaide reaching its forecast top of 45C on Wednesday but that wasn’t likely to be the case on Thursday.

Mr Nairn said more northerly winds meant the city would have no trouble reaching the 46C forecast, so the record could tumble.

“I’m sure everyone will be watching,” he said.

Ambulance crews have also reported a spike in call-outs due to the heatwave.

Ambulance Victoria says 11 children were left in cars on Tuesday, and five had to be freed from cars on Wednesday.

The SA Ambulance Service said the heatwave had resulted in a 15 per cent increase in calls compared to the same period last year.

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