The skies of New South Wales are glowing an eerie orange after reignited wildfires swept through parts of the state, killing two people, leveling scores of homes and destroying much of the local koala habitat.
The revived brush fires – which have burned intermittently across eastern Australia for months– picked up in intensity on Friday, destroying over 100 homes in New South Wales (NSW). Seven people remain unaccounted for amid the blaze and over 30 have been injured.
Over 70 fires continue to burn in NSW, with 17 of them declared at an emergency level, local fire officials say, as high winds and dry weather create near-ideal conditions for the blaze to rapidly spread.
Videos appeared on social media showing the conflagration as it swept through forests and residential areas in NSW.
Satellite images posted online also provided a bird’s eye view of the fire, depicting its progress as it marches east toward the coast.
It’s Saturday morning in Australia, where dozens of wildfires are burning out of control, destroying homes and causing at least 3 people to go missing. The situation is “unprecedented,” according to fire officials in New South Wales. https://t.co/iMkkmRCXXBpic.twitter.com/ApjkQyEQaK
— Capital Weather Gang (@capitalweather) November 8, 2019
The conditions would only worsen on Saturday, NSF Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told ABC News.
“I’m expecting to see those alert levels change throughout the day, probably worsen, more likely than not, as the afternoon winds pick up and the fire behaviour spreads a little more,” the commissioner said.
One of the casualties is the state’s vulnerable koala population, whose habitat has been largely wiped out in the fires.
“Where we thought we had koalas, we now think they have been incinerated,” Sue Ashton, president of the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, told a local news outlet. “The fire is so intense, that’s what’s happening.”
While Ashton said the figures were not updated after Friday’s renewed fires, she noted that around two-thirds of the koala’s habitat in the area had been destroyed previously, and predicted that as many as 350 koalas may have perished in total. The numbers are likely to increase after the most recent blaze.
Several fires were also reported raging in the state of Queensland, north of NSW, with at least one of them classified at the emergency level. Following an order from local fire authorities, thousands of residents fled their homes and spent the night in evacuation centers.
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