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22 Jan 2020 | 09:00 AM UTC

Australia: Parts of Canberra evacuated as bushfire breaks out near capital January 22 /update 35

Parts of Canberra temporarily evacuated as bushfire breaks out, bushfire conditions return to Victoria and NSW January 22; take adequate precautions

environment
security
transportation
AUS

Event

Some suburbs in Canberra were temporarily evacuated on the evening (local time) of Wednesday, January 22, when a bushfire broke out near Canberra Airport (CBR). The fire warning has been downgraded as of Wednesday night, and no damage or injuries were reported. No flight disruptions have been recorded at CBR.

Fires continue to burn in Victoria, where temperatures are expected to reach 32°C (89.6°F) on Wednesday, and in New South Wales (NSW), where temperatures are forecast to hit 40°C (104°F) on Thursday, January 23. Officials have declared "extreme fire danger" in some areas due to high temperatures forecast over the coming days. Hazardous pollution levels are expected in Sydney on Thursday as smoke moves over the city.

Despite the recent rains, bush fires remain a threat in the region, particularly in NSW. According to the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS), as of Wednesday, January 22, there are still 66 active bush fires. 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 29 people have also died in the region as of January 22. 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.