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30 Jan 2020 | 11:56 PM UTC

Australia: State of emergency declared in Canberra January 31 /update 39

Officials declare a state of emergency in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) due to dangerous wildfires around Canberra on January 31; take precautionary measures



A state of emergency was declared in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) on Friday, January 31, as a large bushfire continues to spread south of Canberra. The Orroral Valley fire has burned over 18,500 hectares (45,700 acres) and may become uncontrollable in the coming days. Strong winds and temperatures over 41°C (106°F) are forecast on Saturday, February 1, in Canberra and will likely worsen the situation. As of Friday, no evacuation orders have been issued but residents are being advised to remain vigilant.

Fire weather warnings remain in place for parts of New South Wales (NSW) state as of Friday. Total fire bans remain in effect for NSW and Victoria state, where hot and dry conditions are also forecast for the weekend. Fire fighters in NSW are combating 51 fires on Friday and 20 are not contained.

A heightened security presence, road closures, telecommunication disruptions, and power outages are to be expected in the vicinity of any wildfire. Up-to-date information on the fires in NSW can be found here, in the ACT here, and in Victoria here


Over 11 million hectares (27 million acres) of land have been burned, and at least 2500 houses destroyed since the wildfires broke out on October 9. At least 33 people have also died in the region as of January 28. Authorities have indicated that the fires were due to high temperatures and droughts.

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


Individuals in the affected areas are advised to monitor local weather reports, keep abreast of warnings, anticipate transportation and power disruptions, confirm road conditions prior to heading out, and adhere to any instructions issued by local authorities, notably evacuation orders. Those traveling via 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).