At least three people died and dozens more were injured in fires ravaging the east coast of Australia.
The images published on social networks show apocalyptic scenes: a red-orange sky and flames that engulf eucalyptus forests. At least 150 homes and schools were destroyed. In New South Wales, fires spread so quickly that many residents could not be evacuated in time.
Local radio stations have interrupted their programs to give survival tips to those stranded in their homes or vehicles. The body of a charred man was found in a car, another in the debris of his house and a woman died of her burns despite doctors' efforts to save her.
Some 1,300 firefighters and 70 aircraft were mobilized to fight about a hundred bushfires ravaging eastern Australia for at least 1,000 kilometers, north and south of Sydney. This Saturday, thanks to a slight improvement in weather conditions, firefighters had managed to control most of the 17 most threatening fires. But the danger is still far from being averted and thousands of evacuees still could not return to their homes.
" At 12:30, 74 bushfires across the NSW, 43 not yet under control, " wrote on Twitter the New South Wales Rural Fire Department, which issued a map of fires
At 12:30 am, 74 bush fires across NSW, 43 still not under control. 1 Fire is at Emergency Warning at Hillville on the Mid-Coast and 15 at Watch and Act. Crews are using favorable conditions on a number of important backburning fireworks. #nswrfs pic.twitter.com/sDYXQfO6wtNSW RFS (@NSWRFS) November 9, 2019
"A powder keg"
Australia is used to bush fires, but this year they are extremely numerous and early. The first occurred in September from northern New South Wales to tropical Queensland. " We've never had so many fires at the same time and with such a high level of urgency, " fire chief Shane Fitzsimmons told ABC Public Television. " We are in a powder keg on almost the entire state, and it only takes one spark to start a fire that can burn for days, " said Queensland Fire Chief Mike Wassing.
Climate change and adverse weather patterns have resulted in exceptional drought, low humidity, and strong winds that contribute to bush fires. If this start of the season is dramatic, scientists are worried for the next few months.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose government downplayed the threat of climate change, evaded questions about its effect. " My only thoughts today are with those who lost their lives and their families. (...) Australia has been fighting ferocious fires for as long as Australia is a nation, and well before. And we will continue to do so, "he said. On his Twitter account, he paid tribute to the bravery of those who fight fires.
The bravery is unspeakable. Thank you to all those who are out there right now, to their families and all those supporting them and backing them in. pic.twitter.com/N3fxmtHnuEScott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) November 8, 2019