North-east Australia faces unprecedented ‘catastrophic’ wildfire danger
Families have been warned not to go out, to keep together and prepare to leave if necessary.
Large swathes of north-east Australia endured unprecedented fire danger on Wednesday, with 138 wildfires across Queensland state forcing schools to be closed and thousands of homes to be evacuated, officials said.
The fire danger was rated catastrophic in areas of central Queensland, the first time the highest danger rating had been applied to the state, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
She said 34 schools had been closed in the most threatened regions.
She warned families not to go out, to keep together and prepare to leave if needed.
Fire 🔥 Danger Ratings have reached Catastrophic for the first time in #Queensland due to the combination of a very dry, hot airmass and strong, gusty westerly winds. Follow the advice of @QldFES during these extremely challenging fire weather conditions: https://t.co/rfYMgjkWoL pic.twitter.com/tRqG2VnqYA— Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland (@BOM_Qld) November 28, 2018
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services commissioner Katarina Carroll said homes had been destroyed since Saturday in areas where the fire danger remained too high for teams to enter and assess damage.
She expected that fewer than 10 homes had been lost so far.
High winds, dry air and severe heatwave conditions were combining to make the fire danger extreme, with 138 blazes raging by Wednesday, Carroll said.
“Thunderstorms are going through those areas as we speak. There will be no rain from thunderstorms, in fact, they are adding to the problem,” Carroll said.
Thank you NSW, VIC, SA, WA who are sending crews to help our Qld firefighters. I’ve spoken to the Prime Minister about Defence sending assistance as well. 130 fires are still burning tonight, the heatwave and very serious conditions likely to continue until next Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/NNfN8LuIwC— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) November 28, 2018
“We have never, ever, in this state, been in this situation before. Not at a catastrophic level and this is uncharted waters,” Carroll added.
The Bureau of Meteorology was forecasting weather conditions will moderate after Wednesday.