SYDNEY—Residents across a wide swath of Australias east coast were bracing for “catastrophic” conditions on Tuesday, with searing heat and high winds expected to fan scores of already burning bushfires, threatening residential areas.
Millions of people across two states are subject to a seven-day state of emergency that was imposed by officials on Monday. Locals in areas deemed most at risk are urged to evacuate before the worst hits.
“We really need people to stay alert, stay informed, and stay safe and act in accordance with your plan and the advice that might be given out throughout the day,” New South Wales (NSW) Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters.
Sydneysiders woke up to a city shrouded in smoke. Officials have rated the harbor city at “catastrophic fire danger” for Tuesday. Its the first time Sydney has received that designation since new fire danger ratings were introduced in 2009. The fire danger rating tells residents in the affected areas that authorities are recommending: “for your survival, leaving early is the only option.”
Home to more than 5 million people, Sydney is ringed by large areas of bushland.
Bushfires are a common and deadly threat in Australias hot, dry summers, but the current severe outbreak—across several parts of New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland states, as well as Sydney—weeks before the summer peak, has been made worse by the severe drought gripping the countrys east coast.
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