The New South Wales area of Australia has declared a state of emergency after the worst bushfires for decades continue to threaten several communities in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.
A total of fifty-eight separate fires – some still out of control – are burning across the state and there are now fears they could merge.
Shane Fitzsimmons, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner said firefighters are redoubling their efforts in order to contain the fires:
“Crews continue to do extraordinary work right across all our fire grounds. As I indicated earlier, throughout this afternoon and into this evening there will continue to be quite a number of aggressive high risk strategies being deployed right across these fire grounds.”
Firefighters are also struggling to contain a major fire in the southern highlands town of Balmoral. Reports of looting provoked a strong warning from New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione:
“First and foremost, the New South Wales Police Force will deal with you very harshly. Secondly, you need to understand that it carries significant penalties. You are facing a term of imprisonment of maximum fourteen years.
So far, one man has died, reportedly of a heart attack, while trying to protect his home. Two hundred and six homes have been destroyed and a further one hundred and twenty two damaged.A “perfect storm” of soaring temperatures and high winds is expected to make fire conditions even worse in the coming days.