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Dozens of bushfires rage through eastern Australia

SYDNEY: Hundreds of firefighters battled bushfires in Australia’s eastern state of Queensland on Wednesday (Oct 25), where soaring temperatures and dry winds have fanned some of the most dangerous conditions in years.

One of the worst-affected areas was the state’s Western Downs, an important agricultural and fruit-growing region about four hours’ drive west of the state capital Brisbane.

Around 350 people spent Tuesday night in council-run evacuation centres, the fire service’s acting chief superintendent Warren Buckley said.

One out-of-control fire has burnt through more than 11,000 hectares and has claimed four homes and one shed so far, Buckley added.

“I’m not going to mince my words, it’s a dangerous fire.”

Temperatures in the area reached 42 degrees Celsius on Wednesday – significantly higher than monthly averages – with Buckley describing conditions as “very uncomfortable” for firefighters.

In September, the national weather bureau confirmed that an El Nino weather pattern was underway, bringing soaring temperatures that risked a severe wildfire season and drought.

Australia is facing its most intense bushfire season since 2019 to 2020, when a series of out-of-control infernos raged across the eastern seaboard – razing swathes of forest, killing millions of animals, and blanketing cities in noxious smoke.

Police found a body on Tuesday night near the rural town of Tara, although they have not yet confirmed whether the death was related to the fires.

The main blaze is still about 15km from Tara township but authorities have already warned residents in neighbouring rural areas to leave.

“This is going to go on for a long time,” Buckley said of the fire season.

“We’re planning for it to go on past Christmas and into early next year. It will be a long campaign until we get some rain.”

Millmerran, a town almost two hours southeast of Tara, lost one house and four sheds in a separate fire, which has burned through 3,000 hectares.

In the neighbouring state of New South Wales, firefighters are battling around 70 fires, including one west of the town of Kempsey which has scorched nearly 30,000 hectares of land.

The El Nino phenomenon – which warms waters in the southern Pacific and stokes hotter weather beyond – is likely to contribute to 2023 becoming the hottest year on record over the next three months.

Researchers have repeatedly warned that climate change amplifies the risk of natural disasters such as bushfires, floods and cyclones.

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