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03 Feb 2020 | 02:04 PM UTC

Australia: Authorities lift state of emergency over Canberra as of February 2 as fire threat decreases /update 40

Authorities lift state of emergency over Canberra as of February 2 as fire threat decreases with rain forecast in coming days; return to state of emergency possible over the near term

environment
health
transportation
AUS

Event

Authorities had lifted a state of emergency previously issued for Canberra as of Sunday, February 2, as the prevailing bushfire threat decreased amid the arrival of more favorable weather conditions and as fire containment lines have held. Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Chief Minister Andrew Barr indicated, however, that the fire threat has not completely subsided, and that a return to a state of emergency is possible if the situation requires. Rain is forecast in the ACT beginning Friday, February 7, which may assist firefighting efforts in the region.

A heightened security presence, road closures, telecommunications disruptions, and power outages are to be expected in the vicinity of wildfires. Up-to-date information on the fires in New South Wales state can be found here, in the ACT here, and in Victoria state here.

Context

Over 11.7 million hectares (28.9 million acres) of land have been scorched and around 2500 houses destroyed since the wildfires broke out on October 9. The bushfire season has also left at least 33 people dead. Authorities have indicated that the fires are linked to high temperatures and drought.

Wildfire season is an annual event in Australia between December and February; however, authorities have been on high alert since September 2015 over unseasonably warm temperatures, with scientists claiming that climate change could be extending and increasing the intensity of the fire season.

Advice

Individuals in fire-affected regions are advised to monitor local weather reports, keep abreast of warnings, anticipate disruptions to transportation, electricity, and telecommunications, confirm road conditions prior to heading out, and adhere to any instructions issued by local authorities, notably evacuation orders. Those traveling via Canberra Airport (CBR) are advised to monitor the situation and contact their airline for more information.

Due to health risks associated with air pollution, it is advised to limit outdoor activities. Pollution is especially hazardous to vulnerable individuals (e.g. children, seniors, pregnant women, and individuals suffering from asthma and other respiratory issues). If experiencing breathing difficulties, seek medical attention, particularly if new symptoms appear (e.g. cough, sore throat, irritated eyes).