Australian state declares emergency due to wildfires

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s most populous state declared a state of emergency yesterday due to unprecedented wildfire danger as calls grew for Australia to take more action to counter climate change.

New South Wales state Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said residents were facing what “could be the most dangerous bushfire week this nation has ever seen”.

Fires in the state’s northeast have claimed three lives, destroyed over 150 homes and razed more than 970,000 hectares of forest and farmland since last Friday. Doctors and paramedics have treated over 100 people for fire-related injuries, including 20 firefighters, Ambulance Commissioner Dominic Morgan said. North of New South Wales, wildfires destroyed nine homes yesterday in Queensland state, where air quality plummeted in Brisbane, the state capital, and surrounding cities.

Fire conditions are forecast to be worse today than they were at the peak of the current fire emergency last Friday. The state government announced that 367 schools and technical colleges will be closed because of the fire risk.

Australian military personnel are supporting 1,500 firefighters who were battling 60 blazes across the state.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the last time a state of emergency was declared in New South Wales was 2013 when there were extensive fires in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.

“The catastrophic weather conditions mean that things can change very quickly,” she told reporters in Sydney.