The Australian states of New South Wales has declared a state of emergency and could begin forced evacuations from fire-stricken areas, as emergency crews battle deadly blazes and brace for a dangerous weekend ahead.
State Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Thursday that the emergency declaration would come into effect Friday morning as weather conditions are expected to deteriorate significantly on Saturday, raising the fire danger even further.
This is the third time NSW has declared a state of emergency in as many months — the last two times, in November and December, were also for seven days and granted extraordinary powers to the Rural Fire Service.
Berejiklian said residents could also be subject to forced evacuations, road closures and any other means necessary to keep people safe.
Australia set a record for its hottest day ever for a second straight day with an average national temperature of 41.9 degrees Celsius (107.4 Fahrenheit), a full degree higher than the previous mark.
The Bureau of Meteorology said on Thursday the new nationally averaged maximum was reached Wednesday, topping the 40.9 degrees hit Tuesday, which beat the previous record of 40.3 C in January 2013.
The heatwave has exacerbated an unprecedented, drought-fueled series of bushfires ravaging large areas of Australia.
As the heatwave continued Thursday saw the highest December temperature ever reached in Australia when the West Australian town of Eucla hit 49.8 degrees Celsius (121.6 Fahrenheit).
The previous hottest December day was 49.5 degrees celsius in Birdsville, Queensland, in 1972.
Authorities in Australia on Thursday declared a seven-day state of emergency in New South Wales, the second in as many months, as a record heatwave fanned unprecedented bushfires raging across the region.
Some 100 fires have been burning for weeks in the country’s most populous state. Half are uncontained, including a “mega-blaze” ringing Sydney and covering Australia’s biggest city in a haze of toxic smoke.