CNB News – A National Parks and Wildlife crew member fights flames in New South Wales on Tuesday. Darren Pateman/AAP Images/AP
Authorities had warned ahead of Tuesday that dry conditions, high temperatures and strong winds could make for an incredibly dangerous fire day.
New South Wales and neighboring Queensland both declared states of emergency on Monday due to the forecast. Authorities also issued “catastrophic” fire warnings for the greater Sydney area, the greater Hunter area, Illawarra, and Shoalhaven.
It was the first time the catastrophic warning had been issued for Sydney since the current fire threat system was introduced in 2009.
A “catastrophic” fire threat is the worst level possible and calls on residents to evacuate ahead of time: “For your survival, leaving early is the only option,” the warning states. The fear is that those who do not leave before the fire nears their homes could find themselves trapped by the blazes.
David Elliott, the NSW minister for police and emergency services, said in a speech to parliament Tuesday that the state was “entering uncharted territory” due to the fire emergency.
The blazes have already destroyed three times more land in New South Wales than during the entire fire season last year — even before summer truly begins.
“This is a very real emerging disaster which we need to take on and consider as being something that this state may not have ever seen before,” Elliott said.