January 9, 2013
Wildfire Threat Looms Despite Cooler Temps In Australia On Wednesday
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Despite cooler conditions across southeastern Australia on Wednesday, the threat of wildfires remained a concern throughout the states of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, according to various news reports.
Record heat and dry conditions sparked bushfires throughout several regions in recent days, destroying buildings throughout all three Australian states, according to BBC News.
The Associated Press (AP) notes that there have been no reported deaths as a result of the fires, but that approximately 100 people remain unaccounted for in the Tasmanian town of Dunalley, where 90 homes were destroyed last week. Also, six have been injured, four homes were destroyed, and a farming village had to be evacuated in Victoria, they added.
Australia has been “grappling with an unprecedented heat wave that has sparked raging bushfires across some of the country´s most populated regions — pushing firefighters to their limits, residents to their wits´ end and leaving meteorologists tracking the soaring temperatures into uncharted territory,” says Matt Siegel of the New York Times.
“Four months of record-breaking temperatures stretching back to September of last year have combined over the past week with widespread drought conditions and high winds to create what the government had labeled ℠catastrophic´ fire conditions along the heavily populated eastern and southeastern coasts of the country, where much of the population is centered,” he added.
Wednesday brought some temporary relief in some areas, in the form of cooler conditions. The BBC reports that temperatures in New South Wales had dropped by more than 10 degrees Celsius in New South Wales, and in the Sydney area, highs fell to under 30 degrees Celsius after topping 40 degrees on Tuesday.
The drop in temperature led officials with the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) to downgrade fire danger ratings statewide, the British news agency added.
Nonetheless, as CNN has reported, while “fears that hot, dry weather would spark a deadly inferno in the Australian state of New South Wales failed to eventuate Tuesday,” authorities have warned that the threats were “not over yet.”
Firefighters there were still battling roughly 130 fires throughout the state, with officials attempting to extinguish as many of them as possible before an anticipated temperature increase later on this week. Thirty of those fires have yet to be contained, Hilary Whiteman of the Atlanta-based news organization said.
“Data analyzed on Wednesday by the government-run Bureau of Meteorology indicated that national heat records had again been set — Tuesday was the third hottest day on record at 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and the mean national temperature average was the highest in history, breaking a record set just the day before, on Monday,” said Siegel.
“Meteorologists have taken the extraordinary step of adding two new colors to its temperature charts to extend their range to 54 C (129 F) from the previous cap of 50 degrees C (122 F) to account for the climbing temperatures,” he added. Furthermore, the Bureau´s head of climate monitoring prediction, Dr. David Jones, told the Times that Tuesday was the hottest day in Australia, at a national level, since 1911.