Australia fires: Dreaded bushfire season turns deadly

A firetruck near a bushfire
Image caption,More than 100 fires are burning across Australia

Australia’s most serious bushfire season since its so-called “Black Summer” has turned fatal.

As more than 100 fires burned across the country on Thursday, Queensland officials said two people have died in major blazes near the town of Tara.

Two people also died fighting fires in New South Wales (NSW) last week.

Authorities have for months warned a cocktail of conditions means this bushfire season will be extremely dangerous.

In a briefing, the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services said about 350 people had been evacuated from the Tara region, where an out-of-control fire has so far burned through more than 11,000 hectares of land and destroyed 16 homes.

They said a man died on Tuesday night while trying to protect his property, and a woman died on Wednesday after suffering a cardiac arrest while preparing to evacuate.

Overnight dry lightning storms sparked several new blazes in the same region. Many are under control but one has triggered an emergency warning.

But conditions are likely to worsen again on Thursday, with both temperatures and wind speeds expected to increase.

“[It] will again be another challenging day for us today, as we head into areas of extreme fire danger,” Rural Fire Service acting assistant commissioner Peter Hollier said.

Dry lightning near Allora in southern Queensland
Image caption,Dry lightning near Allora in southern Queensland

Elsewhere, firefighters are also battling to put out blazes in New South Wales (NSW), Victoria and the Northern Territory.

In NSW last week a veteran volunteer firefighter died of a medical episode while on duty in the state’s north, and another man died while trying to protect his property on the mid-north coast. Authorities earlier this week said they believe three large fires in that area had been deliberately lit.

Australia has been on high alert for bushfire danger. This is because of years of rain-driven plant growth, which is drying out after the warmest winter on record, and an El Nino-affected summer that promises more hot and dry months.

The country has reeled from disaster to disaster in recent years, as it feels the effects of climate change.

Earlier this month towns in Victoria were threatened by bushfires only to be forced to prepare for floods just hours later.

The current bushfire season also comes after several years of record-breaking floods, which followed the Black Summer bushfires in 2019-20, which themselves followed years of drought

The world’s top climate scientists have warned that a future full of worsening disasters is likely unless urgent action is taken to tackle climate change.

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