New evacuation orders have been issued in New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria on Friday, January 3, due to ongoing life-threatening bushfires. A state of emergency in NSW is in effect until Thursday, January 9, which allows emergency personnel to enforce evacuation orders, close roads, or shut down utilities. As of Friday morning (local time), tourist leave zones have been issued for parts of South Coast, Kosciuszko National Park, Shoalhaven, and Snowy Monaro. Leave zones are also in effect for Batlow/Wondagla and Khancoban. Individuals are being advised to evacuate the areas immediately due to an extreme fire danger on Saturday, January 4. Specific information can be found on the NSW Rural Fire Service website here.
A state of disaster was declared in multiple areas by Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews on the night of Thursday, January 2. Under the state of disaster, the local government is able to formally evacuate areas, control movement in the disaster area, and take possession of private property to respond to the fires. A full map of the areas under the state of disaster can be found on the VIC Emergency website here. Evacuation notices were issued for the communities of Berringama, Burrowye, Koetong, Lucyvale, Nariel Valley, and Shelley near Walwa on Friday morning.
Weather conditions are expected to deteriorate by January 4, with temperatures forecast above 40°C (104°F). Extreme fire danger conditions are anticipated to return on Saturday and further spread of the fires are likely. Significant traffic delays and disruptions are anticipated around all evacuation and leave areas. 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.
Over 3 million hectares (7,413,161 acres) of land have been burned, and at least 1298 houses destroyed since the wildfires broke out in NSW on October 9. At least 15 people have also died in the region as of January 1. 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.
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.
As high temperatures are expected in the near-term, individuals are also advised avoid strenuous activities or spending time outdoors, particularly during midday, wear loose-fitting clothing, drink plenty of water and avoid dehydrating liquids, such as alcoholic, sugary, or caffeinated drinks, and seek immediate medical attention if exhibiting symptoms of heat stroke, such as nausea, confusion, headache, rapid and strong pulse, and dry skin.
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