Red alert over Sydney: Australia faces worst bushfire crisis for more than a decade as 95 separate blazes destroy hundreds of homes
A blood-red sky in central Sydney was an angry pointer to infernos raging on the city’s outskirts, as unseasonably high temperatures and ferocious winds triggered the worst bushfire emergency in New South Wales for more than a decade.
Hundreds of homes were feared to have been destroyed in 95 separate fires, including 34 burning out of control. With the flames not expected to subside for several days, the state premier, Barry O’Farrell, said that “if we get through that without the loss of life, we should thank God for miracles”.
The commissioner of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, Shane Fitzsimmons, said it had been a “very difficult and dangerous day … [of] extraordinary fire behaviour”, with flames travelling vast distances because of the winds. “This is as bad as it gets,” he said. “You’re talking destructive, damaging, and people losing everything they own.”
In Sydney, the air hung heavy with smoke and ash from fires blazing in the Blue Mountains, to the city’s west. The plume of smoke even showed up on weather radar. With familiar landmarks such as the Opera House bathed in an ethereal orange hue, health authorities warned people with respiratory problems to stay indoors. A New South Wales' RFS fire fighter looks at a bushfire burning
The bushfire season has begun ominously early this year – the temperature reached 34 degrees Celsius, although summer is officially still six weeks off – and follows Australia’s warmest 12 months on record. Although today was forecast to be much cooler, the crippling heat is expected to return at the weekend.
The deputy commissioner, Rob Rogers, told ABC television there were fears people would be found dead inside their destroyed homes. “We will be counting the toll of this tomorrow, and indeed days to come, as far as the real impact of this fire,” he said.
A haze of smoke from the bushfires shrouds the sky (Getty Images)
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...
£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...
£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...