Australian bushfires turn deadly, destroy dozens of homes

Australian bushfires intensify, residents told to leave

Australian bushfires intensify, residents told to leave

Hundreds of people fled their homes along a 500-kilometre swathe of the eastern seaboard from the Queensland state border south to Forster.

"It's been an terrible day as we know and, sadly, we're going to see some significant losses", he said.

But across an area spanning nearly 1,000 kilometres (600 miles), schools were burned, at least 150 homes were destroyed, while the authorities were forced to evacuate detention centres and old people's homes.

The fire season in Australia varies by area and weather conditions, although it usually occurs during the southern summer (between the months of December and March).

But this was a dramatic start to what scientists predict will be a tough fire season ahead - with climate change and unfavourable weather cycles helping create a tinderbox of strong winds, low humidity and high temperatures.

"The devastating and horrific fires that we have seen particularly in New South Wales but also in Queensland have been absolutely chilling", Morrison told reporters in Sydney.

Morrison, whose government has played down the threat of climate change sought to deflect questions about what impact it may have had.

MidCoast Council deputy mayor Claire Pontin - who lives in nearby Hallidays Point - said on Friday the area was "tinder dry". "And we will continue to do so".

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Conditions were challenging because the fire is burning in steep, rugged country.

A series of "unprecedented" bushfires are raging through Australia's southeastern state of New South Wales, with more than 1,000 firefighters battling 17 emergency-level blazes and strong winds expected into the night.

Local radio stopped normal programming and provided instructions about how to try to survive fires if trapped at home or in a vehicle.

High winds were fanning fires, turning the sky red in the mid-north coastal town of Port Macquarie, according to posts on social media.

Both states have been plagued by severe drought, and while some parts of New South Wales celebrated rain over the weekend, it was not widespread enough to mitigate the damage done by months of historically poor rainfall, making this fire season more risky than usual.

Earlier this month some of the same fires cloaked Sydney in hazardous smoke for days, giving the city a higher concentration of particles per million than cities like Bangkok, Jakarta or Hong Kong.

The Thornton blaze in the Lockyer Valley region split into two separate fires travelling in different directions.

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