Australia sizzles in heat as mercury soars to 49C
Australia is sizzling through extreme heatwave conditions this week, with temperatures reaching record highs and emergency services on alert for bushfires.
The mercury is up to 16C higher than usual for this time of the year for southern Australia, with numerous towns setting new December records, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
"Heatwave conditions are being experienced across large parts of the country," the weather bureau said, adding that the sizzling temperatures spanned the southern parts of four states and the Northern Territory.
Marble Bar, in Western Australia, which bills itself as the nation's hottest town, recorded a peak of 49.3C on Thursday.
Major cities across the country are also affected, with the thermometer pushing towards 40C and the heat set to linger into the new year.
In Sydney, thousands of people flocked to beaches to cool down, while the state's health service issued a warning for poor quality air as ozone levels rise with the hot weather.
Emergency services have issued fire bans and warnings and called on people to stay out of the extreme heat.
A southerly wind change is expected to bring cooler wind conditions in southern Australia that will gradually extend inland into South Australia and Victoria state before weakening.