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Australia wildfires: New South Wales declares state of emergency as blaze ravages region

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A firefighter tackling the blaze in Balmoral in Australia
A firefighter tackling the blaze in Balmoral in Australia   -   Copyright  AFP
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Australia's most populous state of New South Wales has declared a seven-day state of emergency after more than 100 wildfires continue to blaze.

Around 2,000 firefighters are battling the fires, half of which remain uncontrolled, with the support of U.S. and Canadian backup teams and personnel from the Australian Defence Force.

The latest state of emergency state of emergency is the second time it has been declared in just two months - previously it had not been declared in the state since 2013.

ran for seven days in mid-November amid “catastrophic” fire risk and was the first implemented in New South Wales since 2013.

Central Sydney reached a maximum of 39C on Thursday, while in the outer suburbs at 42C.

A statewide total fire ban announced on Tuesday will remain in place until midnight on Saturday.

In pictures: Australia's 'unprecedented' wildfires seen from space

Around 3 million hectares of land has burned nationwide during a torrid past few months, with six people killed and more than 800 homes destroyed.

The annual Australian fire season, which peaks during the Southern Hemisphere summer, started early after an unusually warm and dry winter.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said authorities were concerned with the unpredictable conditions.

She said: “With extreme wind conditions, extreme hot temperatures, we have a good idea, a good sense of where the most concerning areas are, but again when you've got those turbulent conditions, embers and spot fires can occur very unpredictably”.

AFP
A state of emergency has been declared in New South WalesAFP

Sydney's air pollution levels on Thursday ranged from poor to hazardous. During the past month, hazardous smoke has often blanketed Australia's most populous city and made its iconic skyline barely visible.

Hospitals have recorded a 10% increase in visits from patients with respiratory conditions during the past week.

The Australian Medical Association has recommended people keep hydrated, cool and out of the sun.

Wildfires are also burning in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.

The Bureau of Meteorology said Tuesday was the hottest day on record in Australia with an average of 40.9C nationwide.

Perth, the capital on the west coast, is experiencing its hottest December with average temperatures for the month at 36C and seven degrees above the mean.

AFP
Firefighters battling the fires in the Blue Mountains near SydneyAFP

Adelaide, in the southeast, is currently experiencing a four-day heatwave culminating in a sizzling 45C on Thursday.

The unprecedented conditions has reignited debate on whether Australia's conservative government has taken enough action on climate change. Australia is the world's largest exporter of coal and liquefied natural gas.

Protesters on Thursday camped outside Prime Minister Scott Morrison's Sydney residence demanding urgent action on climate change.

Morrison, who is currently on holidays, conceded last week that “climate change along with many other factors” contributed to the wildfires.