Australia bushfires could rage for months
Bushfires in Australia are now burning in five different states, with emergency services warning that at least 60 fires are out of control. Authorities warn the wildfires crisis could fester for months.
New South Wales (NSW), which last week was paralyzed by a seven-day state of emergency amid "catastrophic" conditions, accounts for more than half of the fires. Officials say the NSW town of Balmoral, about 75 miles from Sydney with a population of 400 and 150 houses, has been virtually destroyed.
Since September, the devastating blazes have killed at least nine people, including two firefighters, destroyed more than 900 homes and burned nine million acres of land. Not to mention, destroyed vast areas of koala and other local species' natural habitats. Almost 1,000 koalas are feared dead so far.
Forecasters are expecting some respite with cooler conditions over the next few days, but are warning that temperatures are set to spike again in many states by the weekend. Adelaide is forecast to reach 102F, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. Similar temperatures are expected in the Victorian city of Melbourne.
A firefighter looks after a koala caught up in the latest wildfires in Australia (above).
NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons painted a bleak long-term picture.
"We've got to keep in mind that we're not expecting any rainfall to make any meaningful difference to these fires until January or February," he said. "That's still a way to go. We're still talking four to six weeks at best before we start to see a meaningful reprieve in the weather."
Climate change has been cited as a major factor in fires burning across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.