The fires raging through New South Wales could be “the most dangerous bushfire week this nation has ever seen,” according to NSW Police Minister David Elliot. Elliot’s comments came as the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) issued its “catastrophic” warning to coastal cities south of Sydney and 400,000 residents across the Illawarra and Shoalhaven areas were told to expect and prepare for a potential disaster.
ABC reports that three people have been killed by the fires, 150 homes have been destroyed, and a million hectares of land in New South Wales have been razed to the ground. Hundreds of schools are currently closed.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has declared a state of emergency, the first since similar fires rampaged across the area in 2013.
Meanwhile, temperatures are forecast to rise into the mid-30s in the coming days, exacerbating what is already an out-of-control situation. The next few days are likely to be “as bad as it gets,” according to RFS official Anthony Clark.
Residents in the line of fire are advised to evacuate their homes.
“If you’re not doing that tonight, you certainly need to be doing it early tomorrow morning,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said. “We know the fires on the northern coast are not going to be contained ahead of tomorrow’s weather, which means those fires are going to spread, they’re going to spread quickly and spread aggressively.”
He added that “we cannot guarantee a fire truck at every home.”
Sixty fires blazed in NSW Monday; firefighters were only able to contain less than half.
With the state of emergency in effect, the RFS has authority to organize evacuations, redirect traffic, demolish buildings, and suspend gas, electricity oil and water services.