Australia fires: Strong winds hamper efforts to control flames
trong winds that have changed direction are hampering efforts by firefighters to contain bushfires in Australia’s south-east.
A southerly change with powerful gusts up to 80mph (128km/h) threatened to spread huge fires raging in New South Wales (NSW), officials said.
In the neighbouring state of Victoria, army helicopters have been deployed to evacuate people trapped by the flames.
Since September, fires in Australia have killed at least 23 people.
More than 1,200 homes have been destroyed and millions of hectares of land scorched. Although much attention has centred on worst-hit NSW, every state and territory has been affected.
Early on Sunday, NSW fire commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told Australia’s 9News that “hundreds” of homes could have been lost in Saturday’s fires.
Fire and Rescue NSW said four firefighters had been injured overnight. Commissioner Paul Baxter told 9News that three suffered heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation, while the fourth suffered burns to his hands while dealing with a house fire.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has been harshly criticised for his handling of the emergency, has announced the deployment of 3,000 reserve troops to help the fire-fighting effort.
On Saturday he was condemned again for posting an advert on Twitter showing how the government was responding to the crisis, accompanied by an upbeat backing track.
Mr Morrison faced a hostile reception as he visited some of the worst-hit communities earlier this week.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the fires had created a “very volatile situation” and “we are yet to hit the worst of it”.
“We are discouraging people from moving from where they are, given the serious threats and the fact that we have so many fires at an emergency level,” she was quoted by ABC as saying.