Despite desperate efforts by emergency crews, dozens of wildfires are raging in the Australian state of New South Wales, amid extreme heat and strong winds.
At least one person has suffered serious burns. Wildlife is under threat too, as are properties, a number of which are reported to have been destroyed.
The local fire service has described the situation as ‘catastrophic’.
Officials say conditions are worse than those preceding the Australian state of Victoria’s so called ‘Black Saturday’ bush fires in 2009 in which 173 people died.
“This is the worst day we have seen in the history of New South Wales when it comes to fire danger ratings and fire conditions,” Shane Fitzsimmons, the state’s rural fire chief, told reporters.
Today has been the most dangerous day of fire conditions in NSW history. Catastrophic fire danger confirmed in several areas. #NSWRFS— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) February 12, 2017
Amid temperatures over 45 degrees Celsius in some parts, more than 2,000 firefighters, many of them volunteers, are battling the flames.
The areas hit by fires are hundreds of kilometres from Sydney, the state capital.
A 13-year-old boy and a 40-year-old man have been charged with allegedly starting fires.
Since Friday, heatwave conditions have caused the cancellation of major sporting events and put pressure on the electricity grid.
A paper mill, water treatment operations and Australia’s largest aluminium smelter, Tomago, were among businesses halting operations to conserve energy on Friday.