Australian firefighters burn grasslands to minimise looming bushfire risk

By Colin Packham SYDNEY (Reuters) - Thousands of firefighters burned grassland in eastern Australia on Monday in a desperate bid to starve an anticipated new front of bushfires of fuel before forecast searing temperatures on Tuesday.

Reuters December 10, 2019 04:10:15 IST
Australian firefighters burn grasslands to minimise looming bushfire risk

Australian firefighters burn grasslands to minimise looming bushfire risk

By Colin Packham

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Thousands of firefighters burned grassland in eastern Australia on Monday in a desperate bid to starve an anticipated new front of bushfires of fuel before forecast searing temperatures on Tuesday.

More than 100 fires are ablaze in New South Wales and Victoria states, many of which have been burning for several weeks and including a single blaze that stretches more than 60 km (37.2 miles) in a national park north of Sydney.

Conditions are expected to worsen from Tuesday, when temperatures are forecast to top 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and winds are expected to start picking up.

"We are expecting to see across large geographic areas high fire dangers," Fitzsimmons told reporters in Sydney.

"Firefighters are doing kilometres and kilometres of back burning operations, containment line establishment and consolidation."

Wildfires have killed at least four people, destroyed more than 680 homes and burned more than 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) of bushland across eastern Australia since the start of November.

Bushfires are common in Australia's hot, dry summers, but the ferocity and early arrival of the fires in the southern spring is unprecedented. Experts have said climate change has left bushland tinder-dry.

Stoked by strong winds, several fires have combined into a single massive blaze that is threatening the region of Hawkesbury, about 50 km north west of Sydney.

Authorities have warned the blaze is unlikely to be extinguished until meaningful rain arrives - which is not expected for at least three months - and forecasts indicate the fire could be pushed towards larger population areas.

"The big danger is if the winds come from the west and that's exactly what is forecast," Hawkesbury City Mayor Barry Calvert told Reuters. "People are trying to clear their gutters, clean up the leaves on the ground, anything they can do to keep their properties safe."

Calvert said many locals were struggling to move animals and livestock in an area renowned for breeding racehorses.

"We've opened the showground for people to move their animals, but many people here may have 20 horses and only two horse boxes so they can't move them quickly," Calvert told Reuters.

The wildfires have blanketed Sydney - home to more than 5 million people - in smoke and ash for more than two weeks, turning the daytime sky orange, obscuring visibility and prompting commuters to wear breathing masks.

The city, usually known for its sea breezes, clear skies and beach-dotted coastline, has made several appearances in the top ten lists of the most polluted cities in the world. Severe water restrictions begin in the harbour city on Tuesday.

Australia's worst bushfires on record destroyed thousands of homes in Victoria state in February 2009, killing 173 people and injuring 414.

(Reporting by Colin Packham. Editing by Gerry Doyle and Jane Wardell)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.