Firefighters were set for a dangerous day on Saturday as fires in New South Wales and Victoria were expected to burn uncontrollably due to temperatures above 40C and shifting, strong winds that will fan and spread the flames.
Authorities have said conditions could be worse than on Tuesday, when out-of-control fires forced thousands of residents and summer holidaymakers to seek refuge on beaches as the flames burnt massive tracts of bushland.
“It’s going to be a long and difficult day for everybody,” NSW Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters.
More than 100 fires were burning in NSW on Saturday and more than half were not contained, Fitzsimmons said, adding winds that will shift throughout the day will spread the blazes.
“We know the fires we’ve got already ... but what we need to be vigilant about today as well is the prospect of any new fires that might start under these hot, dry, windy conditions,” he said.
In Victoria, where a state of disaster has been declared, there were evacuation recommendations for six fires, emergency warnings for another six, and dozens of others still burning.
“Fire weather on Saturday is predicted to be extreme creating fire storm conditions which may not be survivable,” the CFA warned.
There have been 10 deaths from the fires in NSW and Victoria so far this week, about half the total toll for the current fire season, and authorities have said the focus on Saturday is preventing more loss of life.
To that end, national parks have been closed and people strongly urged earlier this week to evacuate large parts of NSW’s south coast and Victoria’s north eastern regions.
“Today is all about saving lives,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said, who has declared a week-long state of emergency.
“All of the major road networks in NSW are still open, but we can’t guarantee that beyond the next few hours. So, there are still windows for people it get out if they wish to do so.”
Reporting by John Mair.