Stable weather helps contain Australian blazes


Mon, Jan 21, 2013 - Page 5

Firefighters in Australia, which is emerging from last week’s record heat wave, are using cooler temperatures to contain wildfires that destroyed property and claimed lives.

Temperatures in Sydney, Australia’s largest city, which reached a record on Friday of 45.8°C, were forecast to reach 25°C yesterday, with Melbourne hitting 26°C.

More than 120 blazes are still burning in New South Wales and Victoria, the nation’s most populous states, emergency services said.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Victoria’s State Control Centre spokeswoman Kim Payne said in a telephone interview from Melbourne yesterday.

“We’re using the current cooler, more stable conditions to work really hard to get the fires contained before temperatures peak again later in the week,” she added.

Melbourne is forecast to rise to 35°C on Thursday, while the national capital, Canberra, which posted its second-highest temperature on Friday of 41.6°C, will reach 34°C tomorrow. Sydney is forecast to register 30°C tomorrow.

Australia’s hot, dry climate makes bushfires a major risk in the southern hemisphere’s summer, a situation exacerbated this month by a consistent heat wave.

The continent registered a national average of 40.33°C on Jan. 7, the hottest day in more than 100 years of records.

More than 150 homes have been destroyed by fire throughout the nation’s southeast this month.

An 80-year-old man was killed last week by a blaze in the Victoria town of Seaton, while a firefighter died earlier this month in the island state of Tasmania, where about a 100 homes have been destroyed.

The fires have created a thick smoke haze above Melbourne, which is hosting the Australian Open tennis tournament.

The haze has been seen in New Zealand, about 1,450km east of Australia, United Press International reported yesterday, citing MetService meteorologists.

The worst fires in Australia’s history, the so-called Black Saturday blazes, killed 173 people as they swept through rural Victoria in February 2009.