From Crowdy Bay National Park on the coast of New South Wales state just north of the affluent beach town of Noosa in the adjacent Queensland state – a distance of 460 miles – emergency agencies were struggling to bring some 70 bush fires under control.
Eastern Australia's major north-south road, Pacific Highway, was cut off by fire and smoke about five hours north of Sydney near the township of Johns River, where the body of a 63-year-old woman, Julie Fletcher, was found in her burned home.
Fletcher had a messaged neighbor who had decided to abandon her house to the flames, which witnesses in the area said had become a wall 20 feet high that emitted smoke so thick it blotted out the sun .
“I got a message from her at 9:30 pm on Friday night saying she was putting her stuff in the car and getting ready to go, ”Diny Khan told the Sydney newspaper the Daily Telegraph. “She obviously never made it out. What a horrible way to go. ”
Two other people died in the small town of Wytaliba near Guy Fawkes River National Park, a reserve popular with bushwalkers and birdwatchers. A 69-year-old woman, Vivian Chaplain, died in a hospital of severe burns after trying to protect her home, and a man, George Nole, was found inside a burned car, authorities said.
Satellite photographs showed smoke from The fires were billowing hundreds of miles across the Pacific Ocean toward New Caledonia.
An estimated 350 koalas died when fire swept through their breeding ground near the coastal city of Port Macquarie. Koalas typically breed once a year, and it will be difficult for the population to recover, according to Sue Ashton, president of the local koala hospital. “I don't know how we're going to come back from this,” she told the television show “Today.”
Temperatures are in the top 1
00 degrees on Tuesday and winds up to 22 miles an hour will likely push
Emergency services are concerned that conditions are going to deteriorate over the next two days that they have warned people that they cannot rely on help and should consider evacuating in advance.
" Don't wait for the last minute and ring for a firetruck because it may not get there, ”said Jeremy Fewtrell, deputy commissioner of New South Wales Fire and Rescue. “We just don't want to lose more people.”
Firefighters are trying to predict where the fires will shift so they can deploy equipment and move people out before their lives are threatened.
“We're not out of this yet, ”Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters at a rural evacuation center for fire victims on Sunday. “There is a long way to go and Tuesday is looking more difficult.”
External fires, including wood barbecues, have been banned in New South Wales on Monday and Tuesday, and bush fire conditions have been officially classified as “catastrophic” – The highest threat level – in the greater Sydney region for the first time.
Bush fires are responsible for more mass casualties in modern Australian history than any other natural disaster, and the penalty for breaching the fire ban is a year in jail
Many Australian environmentalists fear that bush fires are becoming more common as the planet warms. They accuse Morrison's center-right government of not doing enough to combat climate change.
As Australia's summers become longer and hotter, the dry countryside has become more susceptible to lightning strikes, lit cigarettes and other bush fire triggers.
a briefing from firefighters on Sunday, a protester yelled at the prime minister, "Climate change is real, can't you see?"
Asked if there is a link between bush fires and climate change, Morrison declined to answer directly. “I'm focused on the needs of people in this room today,” he said.
Studies published since then also highlighted the lengthening of the fire season, and shown that conditions would become more conducive to severe fires as the Climate warms and vegetation dries out faster and more extensively.
Australia is mired in a multiyear drought, and hotter-than-average conditions are exacerbating its impacts, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
was badly damaged in the fires, was direct.
“It's climate change; said no doubt about it, 'Carol Sparks, Mayor of Glen Innes, told the Australian Associated Press.