Dangerous mega-blaze forms in Australia

Dangerous mega-blaze forms in Australia

NSW Rural Fire Service crews watch on as a fire burns in bushland close to homes at Penrose in the NSW Southern Highlands, south of Sydney

A strong wind change in Australia merged three enormous bushfires into a mega-blaze as the inferno crisis continued to pose serious threat across the country.

Since September last year, Australia's raging bushfire crisis, one of the worst in its history, has killed 24 people, burned over six million hectares of land, reduced to ashes hundreds of homes and pushed many species towards extinction.

The 233,000-hectare Green Valley fire on Friday evening merged with the nearby East Ournie Creek blaze and the huge 312,000 hectare-Dunns Road fire, which were already at emergency level, the Australian Associated Press (AAP) reported.

 

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the merged fire straddles the country's most populous states of New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria.

NSW Rural Fire Service spokesman Anthony Bradstreet said the fires were burning very quickly and could impact rural properties in the area as winds reach 90 km/hour.

Authorities on Friday issued fresh warnings and evacuation orders in Victoria as hot and windy conditions threatened to regenerate huge bushfires.

Around 23 fires were still burning in Victoria, according to the state's emergency management department.

Emergency warnings were issued for Buchan due to spot fires sparking and a new warning was issued for the area around Swifts Creek. The Victorian town of Combienbar was hit by a grassfire threatening homes and the Combienbar Hall, officials said.

Military helicopters were deployed for the evacuation operation.

A cool change has started to sweep through Melbourne on Friday. However, it is expected to worsen the conditions at the fire front.

"When the change hits, wind gusts could reach up to 90 km/hour on the Gippsland coast, where a severe weather warning has been issued. This is of concern for the fires further inland, as firefighters will have to cope with a few hours of heavy wind before a band of rain moves through," Steven McGibbony, forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorology was quoted as saying by 'The Age'.

In New South Wales, about 135 fires are still burning, with nine at 'watch and act' levels.

On the South Coast, four fires, including the Border and Werri Berri blazes, are in the 'watch and act' level.

Kosciuszko National Park, where vast land tracts were destroyed in the blaze, is again at risk.

Several beaches on the south coast, including Narooma, Dalmeny, Tuross Head, Moruya, Broulee, Malua Bay, Surf Beach and Aslings Beach, have remained closed for the entire weekend.

A "cool and gusty southerly change" was moving through New South Wales and was expected to reach Sydney by 1 am (local time) on Saturday.

However, the Bureau of Meteorology warned that the change "will bring difficult conditions for New South Wales fires" and issued a warning.

In South Australia, fire situation on Kangaroo Island was downgraded on Friday with no emergency warnings now present.

The area received significant rainfall and a drop in temperatures which is assisting crews to control multiple fires that flared up overnight.

SA Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Corrections, Corey Wingard, has lauded the community of Kangaroo Island for their resilience and also thanked emergency services for the efforts.

Meanwhile, a team of UK experts was on its way to Australia to help the country to prepare for the unprecedented bushfire crisis.

In addition to this, US firefighters landed in Sydney on Friday to help fight the bushfires.

Over 70 firefighters have arrived from the US and Canada this week to help with firefighting efforts apart from the 157 New Zealand firefighters.

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