Hundreds of schools closed as Sydney region braces for fire danger

Canberra, More than 600 schools were closed on Tuesday as Sydney and nearby regions in the eastern Australian state of New South Wales brace for what officials are calling “catastrophic” fire conditions.

New South Wales, which has seen dozens of devastating bushfires since last week, has declared a state of emergency with authorities preparing for catastrophic conditions Tuesday, with hot and dry weather, temperatures in the high 30s Celsius and strong winds of up to 80 kilometers per hour, according to Deutsche press agency (dpa).

A risk of “catastrophic fire danger” has been declared for the first time in New South Wales, including the greater Sydney area and most of its outskirts as well as some of the city’s inner suburbs.

The state education department has said more than 600 primary to high schools are closed across New South Wales.

Some of the fire danger region includes national parks, threatening local wildlife.

According to Koala Conservation Australia, fires in the past weeks have already killed 350 koalas and destroyed few major koala habitats, especially in the state’s north-east.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian told residents on Tuesday morning to heed the warnings of authorities and head for safety.

There were 52 fires still burning, half of which are uncontained, across the state.

Three blazes have been categorized at noon as “emergency,” the highest in the alert level, which means the fire is spreading quickly and it is too late to leave.

Smoke from the state’s north has reached Sydney. The sky over the city was blanketed in haze Tuesday morning with authorities warning local people to take precautions.

More than 3,000 firefighters, hundreds of fire trucks and 80 aircraft have been deployed or are on standby, according to New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.

At least three people have died and some 100 people including 20 firefighters have been injured in bushfires that started last week.

More than 150 homes have been damaged and almost one million hectares of land have burnt already, close to combined total for the last three fire seasons.

In Queensland, 57 bushfires are burning but none are at emergency level with more than 1500 firefighters on the ground and 40 aircrafts on standby.

The state has also announced a state of emergency in large parts of Queensland, but the situation is not considered catastrophic.

Source: Bahrain News Agency