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29 Dec 2019 | 03:50 PM UTC

Australia: Authorities call for evacuations in southeast Australia ahead of heatwave December 29 /update 21

Authorities urge residents, vacationers to evacuate East Gippsland region ahead of heatwave December 29; conditions expected to worsen over the coming days

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Event

On Sunday, December 29, Victoria state's Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp urged some 30,000 people vacationing in the East Gippsland region to evacuate no later than Monday morning (local time), December 30, ahead of a heatwave that may exacerbate ongoing wildfires. Temperatures are forecast to reach as high as 41°C (106°F). Weather conditions are also expected to deteriorate in New South Wales state over the coming days; firefighters are currently battling 85 fires in the area.

Further spread of the fires is anticipated over the coming days and weeks. A heightened security presence, road closures, and power outages are to be expected in the vicinity of any wildfire. Up-to-date information on the fires can be found on the NSW RFS website

Context

Over 3 million hectares (7,413,161 acres) of land have been burned, and at least 829 houses destroyed since the wildfires broke out in NSW on October 9. 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.

Advice

Individuals in the affected areas are advised to monitor local weather reports, avoid strenuous activities or spending time outdoors, particularly during midday, wear loose-fitting clothing, drink plenty of water and avoid dehydrating liquids, such as alcoholic, sugary, or caffeinated drinks, and seek immediate medical attention if exhibiting symptoms of heat stroke, such as nausea, confusion, headache, rapid and strong pulse, and dry skin.