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28 Jan 2020 | 05:00 AM UTC

Australia: High temperatures and strong winds forecasted in eastern states as of January 28 /update 38

Strong winds and soaring temperatures reignite bushfires and engulf Canberra in smoke January 28; take precautionary measures

environment
health
security
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AUS

Event

On Tuesday, January 28, the Bureau of Meteorology warned about temperatures likely to reach up to 40°C (104°F) and strong winds up to 40 kph (25 mph) over the weekend on Saturday, February 1, and Sunday, February 2.

As of Tuesday, authorities have issued an emergency warning level for a fire affecting the Namadgi National Park south of Canberra. Firefighters are battling 60 fires in New South Wales (NSW), and 16 warnings were issued in Victoria. Smoke from the fires has cloaked Canberra. The situation is expected to worsen over the coming days.

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 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.

Advice

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).