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Australia fire danger ‘catastrophic’

SYDNEY – Firefighters battled scores of wildfires raging across southeast Australia today with officials evacuating national parks and warning that blistering temperatures and high winds had led to “catastrophic” fire conditions in some areas.

Thousands of firefighters were on standby across the nation’s most populous state of New South Wales, where fire authorities said wildfire conditions were at catastrophic threat levels – the most severe rating available – in parts of the state. All state forests and national parks were closed as a precaution and total fire bans were in place with temperatures expected to reach 113 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas.

“We are shaping up for one of the worst fire danger days on record,” New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said. “You don’t get conditions worse than this.”

No deaths had been reported, although officials in Tasmania were still trying to find around 100 residents who have been missing since a fire tore through the small town of Dunalley, east of the state capital of Hobart, last week, destroying around 90 homes. Police today said no bodies were found during preliminary checks of the ruined houses.

Wildfires are common during the Australian summer.


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