By Tim Dornin, David Beniuk, Daniel Fogarty | Australian News
Much of Australia will be on high bushfire alert this weekend as a prolonged heatwave pushes across the country, with record temperatures already experienced in some centres.
A number of bushfires are being fought in South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania. Authorities in those states are urging people to prepare themselves and their properties in case of fire.
Firefighters in Tasmania fear some houses have been lost at the township of Dunnalley near Hobart. Health bodies are urging people to drink plenty of water and stay out of the heat.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s acting regional director in South Australia, John Nairn, says while heatwaves are a normal part of the Australian summer, the current blast is unusual for the large area it is covering.
“More than 70 per cent of the continent is currently experiencing heatwave conditions,” he said. ”Severe heatwave conditions across the interior of Australia are set to continue for a while yet.”
Among the hottest parts of the country on Friday were Wudinna, on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, which hit 48.2C. Adelaide reached 45C and Hobart reached a record 41.8C – one degree hotter than the record set in 1976. Tasmania Fire Service chief officer Mike Brown said conditions at times on Friday reached the catastrophic level developed after the Black Saturday fires in Victoria, with up to 40 fires burning around the state.
“We reached catastrophic fire danger ratings at times during this afternoon,” Chief Officer Brown told reporters. ”I don’t think we’re quite out of the woods yet.”
But it is the Dunnalley and Forcett fires, which the 100 fire crews fighting them say they can’t contain, that are causing most concern ahead of a mild southerly change due in Hobart around midnight.
On South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula, three farming properties were under threat on Friday, while fires were also being fought near Currency Creek, on the Yorke Peninsula, in the Clare Valley, and at Truro, north of Adelaide.