THE AGE, AAP, THE MERCURY, SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (Australia)
As wildfires rage across eastern and southern Australia, authorities warn that persistent record temperatures could spark the country's worst fire catastrophe in recorded history over the coming days.
With at least 100 people unaccounted for, people are being told to be diligent amid warnings that “extreme and catastrophic conditions” could spark fires very easily.
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In the state of Tasmania, a fire that has already burned through 10,600 hectares was still out of control on Monday, according to the AAP. Police has accused a 31-year old man of starting the fire by leaving his campfire unattended.
About 100 people were still unaccounted for in the Tasman peninsula, southeast of the capital of Hobart on Sunday, while hundreds more stranded in their homes as fires around them raged. According to Tasmanian newspaper The Mercury, more than 1000 firefighters and other emergency services were battling about 20 uncontrolled fires across the state.
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Frontpage of The Mercury today
Sixty thousand hectares have already been burned in three separate fires. "I can't give a figure on when we are going to be able to contain these fires," Tasmania Fire chief officer Mike Brown told The Mercury.
Ninety fires were also reported in the state of New South Wales on Monday. Every national park in NSW was closed as the state faces its “worse fire danger day in history, with severe, extreme and catastrophic conditions,” on Tuesday reported the AAP. A total fire ban is enforced across the state.
There is a huge “dome of heat over the continent,” said Dr Karl Braganza, head of climate monitoring at the Bureau of Meteorology. According to The Age, statistics on Monday showed Australia had posted six consecutive days of averages above 39 degrees Celsius.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on Monday that extreme bushfires were part of life in a hot and dry country, reported the Sydney Morning Herald. "And while you would not put any one event down to climate change ... we do know that over time as a result of climate change we are going to see more extreme weather events," she said.
"It's an awful scene," Gillard said while touring wildfire-hit regions in the Tasman peninsula. “The devastation and the randomness of it. There's so much cruelty, and luck and fate."