Australian state declares week-long state of emergency
The leader of the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW), Gladys Berejiklian, has declared a week-long state of emergency in response to the growing threat bushfires are posing
The wildfires have been raging for months, but the crisis has intensified in recent days due to a heatwave and strong winds fanning the flames. The state of emergency will start at 08:00 on 3 January (21:00 GMT of 2 January) and last for seven days. It will allow local authorities to carry out forced road closures and evacuations, said Berejiklian.
Fire officials in the state have already told holidaymakers to urgently leave a 260-km stretch of coast before this weekend, when temperatures are again set to soar and yet more strong winds are expected. Supplies are running low in cut-off towns, including fuel.
In the neighbouring state of Victoria, some 30,000 holidaymakers were recently urged to evacuate the East Gippsland region, but although thousands took the advice to leave, many who remained found themselves trapped as blazes intermittently shut the main highway. Naval troops are preparing to evacuate 4,000 people trapped by the fires.
With thousands of tourists and locals seeking refuge on beaches, NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said that the fire season had been the worst in the state’s history.
Since September, the bushfires have killed 18 people and destroyed 1,200 homes in the two states alone. The estimated insurance cost related to the fires is expected to be AU$600 million.