Several Australian bushfires have combined to form a “mega fire” that is burning out of control across a swathe of land north of Sydney, authorities said yesterday, warning they cannot contain the blaze.
New South Wales Rural Fire Service deputy commissioner, Rob Rogers said “there are probably more than eight fires in all” that have merged to form what has been dubbed a “mega fire” in an area of national park forest.
The blaze was burning across 300,000 hectares -- an area roughly 60 kilometres across -- within an hour’s drive of Australia’s largest city, which was again subsumed in a soup of toxic smoke.
“There is just fire that whole way” said Rogers, who added that firefighters could do little more than get any residents out, protect property and hope for an end to fire-friendly dry and windy conditions.
We “cannot stop these fires, they will just keep burning until conditions ease, and then we’ll try to do what we can to contain them,” he told public broadcaster ABC.
Prolonged drought has left much of eastern Australia tinder-dry and spot fires have raged every day for the past three months.
Bushfires are common in Australia but scientists say this year’s season has come earlier and with more intensity due to a prolonged drought and climatic conditions fuelled by global warming.
More than 600 homes have been destroyed and six people have died since the crisis began in September. That is many fewer than Australia’s deadliest recent fire season in 2009 when almost 200 people died, but 2019’s toll so far belies the scale of devastation.
An estimated two million hectares have burned -- the size of some small countries -- across a region spanning hundreds of kilometres (miles).
The fires have taken a toll in Sydney and other major cities, which have been blanketed in toxic smoke for weeks and occasionally sprinkled with snow-like embers.