Wildfires Rage Across Australia Amid Blistering Heat; 100 Still Missing After Tasmania Fire

β€œYou don’t get conditions worse than this,” New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said. β€œWe are at the catastrophic level and clearly in those areas leaving early is your safest option.”

Catastrophic threat level is the most severe rating.

Wildfires have razed 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of forests and farmland across southern Tasmania since Friday. In New South Wales, the country’s most populous state, the fires had burned through more than 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) of land. All state forests and national parks were closed as a precaution and total fire bans were in place with temperatures surpassing 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) in some areas.

In Victoria state, fire officials said two people were treated for minor burns and four people for smoke inhalation. Up to 20 properties in the town of Chepstowe west of Melbourne had reportedly been hit by a fire, though officials said it was too early to know the extent of the damage, a Victoria Country Fire Authority spokeswoman said.

More than 130 fires were blazing across New South Wales, though only a few dozen houses were under threat as night fell. One home was destroyed in the village of Jugiong, northwest of the capital of Canberra, fire officials said.

Source: Washington Post

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/wildfires-rage-across-australia-amid-blistering-heat-100-still-missing-after-tasmania-fire/2013/01/07/599af996-5934-11e2-b8b2-0d18a64c8dfa_story.html

In pictures: Australia’s ‘catastrophic’ wildfires: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20943649