Bush fires are raging through five out of six Australian states due to record heat and dry conditions. Over the weekend, flames flattened whole townships in the island state of Tasmania, where locals told The Guardian that a veritable fireball scorched buildings and cars. While nobody has been reported injured, many people have been left homeless and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has promised emergency aid. Meanwhile, authorities warn that on Tuesday high temperatures, low humidity and fierce winds rival conditions that sparked Victoria’s Black Saturday in 2009 – one of the most devastating wildfires in Australia’s history.

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The fires raging through five of six states followed one of the fiercest and wide-ranging heat waves in more than 80 years, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. The Guardian reports that record temperatures began in western Australia on 27 December and swept east for just over a week, leaving devastating fires in its wake. There are 90 fires in New South Wales alone.

Prime Minister Gillard warned residents to flee the scene of fires on Tuesday as fire fighting crews may not be able to combat them. “Any fire that burns under the predicted conditions – 40C temperatures, below 10% humidity, winds gusting over 70km/hr (43mph) – those conditions are by any measure horrendous,” said Rob Rogers, deputy commissioner of the New South Wales rural fire service.

PM Gillard says that Australia is a hot and dry country and that periodic fires are to be expected, though she acknowledged that with the onset of climate change, they can expect to see more extreme weather events and conditions.

Via The Guardian

Image of bush fire at night, Tasmania, Shutterstock