Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, declared its 2nd emergency in as many months Thursday as extreme heat and strong winds stoked more than 100 bushfires, including three major blazes at Sydney’s front door.
The state of emergency declaration gave firefighters broad powers to control government resources, force evacuations, close roads and shut down utilities across New South Wales, which is home to more than 7-M people.
Authorities said nearly 120 fires ablazed by late afternoon, more than half of which are uncontrolled, and with temperatures forecast to Top 45 degrees Celsius (113°F) in some areas, officials warned residents to be on high alert.
“The firefront has been spreading very quickly and intensely,” NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters in Sydney, adding that 2 firefighters had been airlifted to hospital with burns to their faces and airways. “It’s still a very difficult and dangerous set of circumstances.”
“There is a large amount of smoke looming over the city, which shows how close the fire is.
“It is extremely hot and windy now so we are all worried the fire could spread. People are really worried that they may lose everything.”
Some 1,700 firefighters have been deployed across NSW, but officials warned that was still not enough to cover every potential danger and urged people in high risk areas to evacuate while it was still safe to do so.
The current state of emergency will last for 7 days, while a total fire ban that has been in place since Tuesday will remain until Midnight on Saturday.