Five Australian states have been hard hit by a series of heat waves and bushfires which began in Saturday, January 5, 2013. Heat waves reaching as high as 48.2º C and extremely dry conditions starting December 27, 2012 set the stage for one of the most dreadful bushfires in Australia’s history.
Heat waves have seen its hottest since 1976. Queensland had a record high of 47.3º C, New South Wales at 46.35º C, Tasmania 41.8º C, and Victoria 40.2º C. But it was South Australia that went off the charts at 48.2ºC.
Bushfires spread rapidly across the affected states because of rapid winds, dry air, and dense vegetation in some affected areas.
At least 128 buildings and homes burned down in Tasmania leaving one unconfirmed report of human loss and a hundred others that were still unaccounted for. Thousands of residents were forced to evacuate to a safe harbor, mostly by boat. New South Wales had more than 140 fires in which 31 of them went unabated for prolonged periods of time. Fortunately, no lives were lost and there were only 51 accounts of homes destroyed by fire.
Numerous cases of bushfires have also been reported in the state of Queensland and threatens to hit populated areas. Some of these places include Eukey, Bribie Island, Yeppoon, and Tin Can Bay. Fire continues to rage and a cloud of smoke rising up to several kilometers can be seen for miles. Near Portland, Victoria, firefighters are battling a massive bushfire that set over 2000 hectares of forest ablaze, along with 84 other cases of fire across the state.
In Tasmania alone, damages from bushfires is close to $50 million. Initial estimate in the state of Victoria is around $9 million while other affected states are still being assessed as to the extent of the damage and if there are significant losses.
Despite the calamity, people were able respond quickly and avoided considerable loss of life and property as what happened on February 7, 2009 (“Black Saturday”) when southern states were set ablaze in a raging wall of fire that took the lives of 173 people, leaving 500 injured, 2000 families homeless, and untold millions of wildlife destroyed in the worst bushfire in the history of Australia.