Australian bushfires: Thousands have been forced to leave their homes

Clay Curtis
November 10, 2019

As the fire emergency continued into its second day on Saturday, officials confirmed that more than 150 homes in New South Wales had burned down. Two other people are unaccounted for.

About 350 koalas living on the reserve in the north coast town of Port Macquarie have died in the bushfires, the group Koala Conservation Australia estimates.

The fire danger reached unprecedented levels in New South Wales on Friday, when 17 fires were burning at the most extreme danger rating known as the Emergency Warning Level.

One body was found in a burnt vehicle, police said; another woman was found severely burned and later died at Concord Hospital.

Fire services in the affected area are on high alert, according to NWS RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he wanted to assure those in the communities ravaged by fire, or those facing a fire threat in the future, that there was a "high level of co-ordination of response" across the state and Commonwealth governments.

But within an area spanning nearly 1,000 kilometres (600 miles), schools were burned and at least 150 homes were destroyed, while authorities were forced to evacuate detention centres and old people's homes.

"Just because we can not tie any one individual fire to the climate emergency doesn't mean that those who refuse to act are not responsible for these blazes".

Meanwhile, efforts are continuing to bring the existing blazes under control. But this was a dramatic start to what scientists predict will be a tough fire season - with climate change and weather cycles contributing to the risky combination of strong winds, high temperatures and dry conditions.

Mr Morrison was heckled during the briefing by a climate change protester.

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"The devastating and horrific fires that we have seen, particularly in New South Wales but also in Queensland, have been absolutely chilling", Morrison said.

Firefighters had described the conditions yesterday as "difficult" and "dangerous".

In some areas, residents were stuck and told to simply "seek shelter as it is too late to leave".

Videos appeared on social media showing the conflagration as it swept through forests and residential areas in NSW.

Despite easing conditions, a prolonged drought and low humidity levels will continue to make circumstances combustible.

Fletcher had messaged a neighbor that she had made a decision to abandon her house to the flames, which witnesses in the area said had became a wall 20 feet (6 meters) high that emitted smoke so thick it blotted out the sun.

Earlier this month some of the same fires cloaked Sydney in hazardous smoke for days, giving the city a higher concentration of particles per million than cities like Bangkok, Jakarta or Hong Kong.

Swathes of Australia have gone months without adequate rainfall, forcing farmers to truck in water, sell off livestock or leave their land to lie fallow.

The Australian wildfire season started early this year after an unusually warm and dry winter. That won't always be the case, though, and a mild fire season doesn't mean climate change isn't here, per the Guardian.

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