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06 Jan 2020 | 06:17 AM UTC

Australia: Wildfires continue in New South Wales and Victoria January 6 /update /update 28

Bushfires continue in New South Wales and Victoria states January 6; heightened security presence and transportation disruptions reported

environment
health
security
transportation
AUS

Event

As of Monday, January 6, the death toll of the New South Wales (NSW) bushfires has risen to 20 as around 130 bushfires continue across the state. According to the NSW power distributor Essential Energy, power outages are affecting around 24,000 people, primarily around Bateman Bay, following significant damages on its network.

In Victoria, all emergency warnings have been lifted across the state, although the evacuations of Mallacoota were still ongoing as 39 fires with 13 "watch and act" remained in place on Monday. Clearing operations have reportedly started on the Great Alpine, Gelantipy, and Bonang roads as several locations in East Gippsland remains cut off. The state of disaster, declared on Friday, January 3, will however remain in place in Victoria through Thursday, January 7.

Hazardous air quality levels have also been recorded in several locations across NSW and Victoria due to the ongoing wildfires, with an Air Quality index (AQI) reading reaching 286 in Canberra and 281 in Melbourne as of 14:00 (local time).

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 and in Victoria here. 

Context

Over 4,8 million hectares (12 million acres) of land have been burned, and at least 1298 houses destroyed since the wildfires broke out in NSW on October 9. At least 20 people have also died in the region as of January 6. 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, keep abreast of warnings, anticipate transportation and power disruptions, and adhere to any instructions issued by local authorities, notably evacuation orders.