Australia: Fires worsen as every Australian state hits 40C

SCORES of fires are burning out of control across Australia amid a heatwave which has seen temperatures exceed 40C (104F) in every state.
On Monday, the most dangerous fires were in the state of Victoria.
About 30,000 residents and tourists were urged to flee East Gippsland, a popular holiday region, but evacuations were later deemed too risky as fires encroached on major roads. Nine people have died in the nation’s bushfire crisis since September.
Victoria was worst-affected on Monday, as scorching temperatures, strong winds, and thunderstorms created dangerous conditions. Emergency fire warnings were also issued for South Australia, New South Wales (NSW) and Tasmania on Monday. In Sydney, NSW, more than a quarter of a million people have signed a petition calling for the New Year’s Eve fireworks to be cancelled and the money spent on fighting fires. But the authorities have said they will go ahead as planned.
In the East Gippsland region, three fires burning near the towns of Bruthen, Buchan and Bonang rapidly expanded as temperatures soared to the mid-40Cs.
Officials said the wind-driven blazes were “racing” towards the coast, and had moved faster than predicted. “We have had a challenging day in Victoria,” said Andrew Crispin, the state’s emergency management commissioner. Elsewhere in the state, a major New Year’s Eve music festival has been cancelled after organisers said the bushfire threat was too dangerous.
Some 9,000 people had already been camping at the Falls Festival in Lorne. Access is by a single track, meaning it would not be possible for festival-goers to evacuate quickly.”
In South Australia, crews battled “catastrophic” fire conditions in a wine region north-east of Adelaide.
The island state of Tasmania also struggled to contain bushfires amid a sweltering heatwave.
Hobart, the state’s capital, experienced its hottest December day on record when temperatures hit 40.8C on Monday.
More than 100 blazes continue to burn in NSW, the state worst-affected by the fires so far this year.
Temperatures exceeded 41C in parts of the state, including in Sydney, Australia’s largest city. With total fire ban restrictions in place, several regions have cancelled their New Year’s Eve fireworks including the Australian Capital Territory, where the nation’s capital city Canberra is located.
However, in Sydney, authorities say the city’s harbour fireworks display, watched by millions around the world – will go ahead despite criticism.
NSW’s deputy premier broke ranks with the rest of the state government on Monday when he said cancelling the fireworks should be a “very easy decision”.
“If regional areas have had fireworks banned, then let’s not have two classes of citizens,” said John Barilaro. “We’re all in this crisis together.”
Yet the city’s authorities say the cancellation would have little practical effect on affected communities.
Across Australia, the fires have destroyed at least four million hectares (9.9m acres) in five states since September.
On Saturday Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that volunteer firefighters in New South Wales would receive compensation for loss of earnings after spending time away from jobs to battle bushfires.