Australians on SE coast urged to flee as fire risk escalates

TOMERONG, AUSTRALIA (AP) — Residents in the path of wildfires razing southeast Australia were urged to evacuate yesterday if they don’t intend to defend their homes as hot and windy conditions are forecast to escalate the danger over the next two days.

The Rural Fire Service in New South Wales state has told fire-weary community meetings south of Sydney in the coastal towns of Nowra, Narooma and Batemans Bay that northwesterly winds were likely to once again drive blazes toward the coast. Vacationers have retreated to beaches and into the ocean in the area in recent weeks as destructive fires and choking smoke have encroached on the tourist towns, scorching sand dunes in some places.

In neighbouring Victoria state, fire-threatened populations were urged to act quickly on evacuation warnings.

“We can’t guarantee your safety and we don’t want to be putting emergency services — whether it be volunteers or paid staff — we do not want to put them in harm’s way because people didn’t follow advice that was given,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said.

Temperatures in the threatened area were expected to reach into the mid-40s Celsius today, and conditions remained tinder dry.