Australia: wildfires ravage Queensland

Australia: wildfires ravage Queensland

Large swaths of northeast Australia endured unprecedented fire danger on Wednesday with 138 wildfires across Queensland state.

Schools were closed and thousands of homes evacuated due to the blazes, officials said.

The fire danger was rated catastrophic in areas of central Queensland, the first time the highest danger rating had been applied to the state, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

She said 34 schools had been closed in the most threatened regions.

She warned families not to go out, to keep together and prepare to leave if needed.

The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner said homes had been destroyed since Saturday in areas where the fire danger remained too high for teams to enter and assess damage.

She expected that fewer than 10 homes had been lost so far.

High winds, dry air and severe heatwave conditions were combining to make the fire danger extreme, with 138 blazes raging by late Wednesday, she said.

The Bureau of Meteorology was forecasting weather conditions will moderate after Wednesday.