Firestorm threatens Sydney suburbs with catastrophe

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The Independent Online
THOUSANDS of people jammed into cars with their belongings early this morning and fled huge bushfires raging in the suburbs of Sydney.

'We are almost at catastrophic conditions now,' said the police minister, Terry Griffiths. 'In the next 72 hours if we only lose 2,000 or 3,000 houses we'll be doing very well.' Searing temperatures, gusty winds and exploding eucalyptus trees helped to spread the flames. More than 7,000 firefighters battled against about 150 fires ravaging 500 miles of coastline.

The city centre was not threatened but smoke and the smell of burning eucalyptus wafted through offices; power supplies were interrupted.

The death cries of possums, wombats and cockatoos caught in the firestorms pierced the thick smoke.