SYDNEY (AFP) – Hundreds of firefighters battled bushfires in Australia’s eastern state of Queensland on Wednesday, where soaring temperatures and dry winds have fanned some of the most dangerous conditions in years.
One of the worst-affected areas was the state’s Western Downs, an important agricultural and fruit-growing region about four hours’ drive west of Brisbane.
Some 350 people spent Tuesday night in council-run evacuation centres, the fire service’s acting chief superintendent Warren Buckley said.
One out-of-control fire has burnt through over 11,000 hectares and has claimed four homes and one shed so far, Buckley added.
Temperatures in the area reached 42 degrees Celsius on Wednesday – significantly higher than monthly averages – with Buckley describing conditions as “very uncomfortable” for firefighters.
In September, the national weather bureau confirmed that an El Nino weather pattern was under way, bringing soaring temperatures that risked a severe wildfire season and drought.
Australia is facing its most intense bushfire season since 2019-2020, when a series of out-of-control infernos raged across the eastern seaboard – razing swathes of forest, killing millions of animals, and blanketing cities in noxious smoke.
Police found a body on Tuesday night near the rural town of Tara, although they have not yet confirmed whether the death was related to the fires.
The main blaze is still about 15 kilometres from Tara township but authorities have already warned residents in neighbouring rural areas to leave.