Massive bushfires are continuing to cause havoc across Australia with one state facing what has been described as ‘catastrophic conditions’.
Since the fires began in September, more than 800 homes have been destroyed and 7.4 million acres of land has been burned.
The death toll has now risen to nine after one man died near Adelaide Hills on Friday, a day after two volunteer firefighters were killed near Sydney.
New South Wales (NSW), which includes Sydney, is currently in a seven-day state of emergency as more than 100 fires rage across the state.
The combination of soaring 40C temperatures and strong winds is causing the fires to spread.
People have been urged not to travel on roads in the vicinity of fires ‘unless they absolutely have to’.
Amid the crisis, almost 10,000 emergency personnel including around 2,000 firefighters have been sent to NSW.
Shane Fitzsimmons, the rural fire services commissioner, said: ‘Catastrophic fire conditions are as bad as it gets.
‘Given we have a landscape with so much active fire burning, you have a recipe for very serious concern and a very dangerous day.’
There have been three deaths related to the bush fires in a matter of days.
Two volunteer firemen – Geoffrey Keaton, 32, and Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, – were killed when a tree fell and caused their vehicle to roll off the road southwest of Sydney.
One person died as the wildfire raged in Adelaide Hill around 25 miles from Adelaide and a 24-year-old died in a crash in South Australia.
Steven Marshall, premier of South Australia, said: ‘It is going to be a real scene of devastation, especially for those people in the Adelaide Hills who have been most affected.
‘We know that in addition to the buildings and vehicles lost, there are very significant losses in terms of livestock, animals, crops, vineyards.’
The devastation has put pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has received criticism for going on a family vacation in Hawaii during the wildfire crisis.
Yesterday he apologised for any offense ’caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time.’
Morrison cut short his vacation and returned home today.
Debate has also reignited on whether Morrison’s conservative government has taken enough action on climate change.
Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal and liquefied natural gas.