• Australia braces for worsening wildfires

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    SYDNEY: Australian fire services warned on Sunday that parts of New South Wales were facing the most dangerous combination of warm, dry weather and strong winds in more than 40 years as major wildfires swept the state.

    Fire crews ramped up containment efforts around several of the blazes with the weather forecast to deteriorate and officials warning of “unparalleled” dangers.

    More than 200 homes have already been destroyed and another 120 damaged by the wildfires, which broke out across New South Wales state in unseasonably warm weather earlier this week, fanned by extremely high winds.

    The worst of the fires, in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, plunged the city last week into an eerie midday darkness as plumes of smoke and ash filled the sky.

    One man has died so far trying to protect his property.

    Firefighters had a reprieve on Friday and Saturday with an easing in the weather, but containment and property protection efforts were stepped up on Sunday ahead of an expected intensification in weather conditions set to include warmer temperatures and 100 kilometer per hour winds.

    New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said there would be several extremely difficult days ahead for fire crews.

    “We’ve got what would be unparalleled in terms of risk and exposure for the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury communities throughout this week,” Fitzsimmons told reporters.

    “If you are to draw a parallel, and it’s always dangerous to draw a parallel, at best you’d be going back to time periods in the late 60s.”

    AFP

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