Australian firefighters struggle to cope as 60 bushfires blaze across New South Wales

State premier briefs parliament as residents are told to initiate their 'Bush Fire Survival Plans'

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The Independent Online

Almost 60 bushfires have converged near Sydney in Australia, leading to evacuations, destroyed property and stretching fire crews to their limit.

Residents are being warned to put their “Bush Fire Survival Plan into action”, and the New South Wales state premier Barry O’Farrell briefed parliament today on ongoing dangers.

Around 500 firefighters and 200 engines are working on the ground to bring the fires under control. Mr O’Farrell said 40 of the 59 distinct blazes remain uncontained.

A number of houses have been burned down, and two members of the fire crew injured. The state Rural Fire Service’s deputy commissioner Rob Rogers said having so many fires in such a concentrated area around Sydney's greater west was a challenge.

Click here to see a gallery of images showing firefighters tackling the blazes

“As far as the crow flies they're all not that far apart,” he told local media.

“Unfortunately I think we'll probably see some more losses before the end of the day.”

 Mr O'Farrell told parliament emergency warnings are in place across the state, adding that “strong, gusty north-westerly winds continue to affect the firegrounds”.

Various evacuations have taken place across New South Wales, including 2,000 people from a University of Western Sydney campus and about 300 students from St Paul's Grammar School in Castlereagh.

Temperatures in Sydney hit a peak of 32C today, but with a drop of 10C forecast for tomorrow and a reduction in wind speeds, it is hoped the fires can be brought under control before they cause much more damage. “It will be a significantly different day,” Mr O’Farrell said.