The Australian state of New South Wales has declared a state of emergency and could begin forced evacuations from fire-stricken areas, as emergency crews battle deadly blazes and brace for a dangerous weekend ahead.
State Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Thursday that the emergency declaration would come into effect Friday morning as weather conditions are expected to deteriorate significantly on Saturday, raising the fire danger even further.
This is the third time NSW has declared a state of emergency in as many months — the last two times, in November and December, were also for seven days, and granted extraordinary powers to the Rural Fire Service.
The BBC reports:
Smoke from huge bushfires in Australia is drifting as far as New Zealand, 2,000km (1,200 miles) away, leading to haze and a burnt smell in the air. Australia is grappling with a bushfire crisis fuelled by record-breaking temperatures and months of drought.
The smoke first reached New Zealand’s South Island on 31 December, turning skies a murky yellow. Since then, the south’s famous glaciers have vanished in haze and even North Island has seen its skies turn “eerie”.
At least 18 people are confirmed to have been killed by the bushfires, which have burned vast areas of several Australian states. Several people are still missing and conditions are expected to worsen over the coming weekend.
According to Bushfires and Natural Hazards CRC, catastrophic fire danger ratings have been issued for New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria, with loss of human and animal lives, as well as damage to property and the environment.
The Australian Seasonal Bushfire Outlook: December 2019 shows above normal bushfire potential for large fires to take hold based on recent and predicted weather, the dryness of the land and forests, recent fire history and local firefighting resources.