A record-breaking heatwave put Australians on alert last week. Heatwaves may not be unusual in Australia during the summer months, but the current extreme heat is more widespread than normal. It has now been declared "catastrophic."
Late last week, as temperatures began to sizzle, PM Julia Gillard issued a warning. Initially she posted on Twitter, "Take care and stay safe as we face extreme heat around our nation. Listen to warnings on the high bushfire risk. JG", but since then the authorities have faced an escalating disaster. Australia is now experiencing “catastrophic” fire and heatwave conditions reported CNN.A "catastrophic" fire risk has been declared in four areas of NSW, although the risk across 90% of the state is "severe" or above. A "catastrophic" warning carries the risk of significant loss of life and the destruction of many homes, according to the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS). "I cannot say it more plainly: the risk is real and potentially deadly. People need to act now," the service's Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.
In Tasmania, Australia's only island State, 100 people have been reported as missing, according to the Independent. Police are searching for the people listed as missing. Devastating wildfires destroyed at least 100 homes, last weekend, in the small community of Dunalley, east of Hobart, Tasmania. During the weekend fires, on Tasmania, around 2,500 people were evacuated after small communities were ravaged. Escaping into the water is not an easy option as the searing heat has affected sea temperatures, as well as those on land.
Today PM Gillard has warned Australians that they are in for a "very dangerous day." There are 130 fires currently burning in New South Wales and, according to a report by the BBC, 40 of these have not been contained. Tasmania remains under threat and an uncontrolled fire is burning by the Tasman peninsula.
PM Gillard warned,
The word catastrophic is being used for good reason. So it is very important that people keep themselves safe, that they listen to local authorities and local warnings. This is a very dangerous day.
The worst affected areas for fire, and those under severe threat today, are New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. A total ban on fires is in place in those three areas. Thousands of firefighters continue to battle the blazes, plus the threat of bush fires is never far away during a hot summer in Australia and when fire takes hold it inevitably proves hard to control. The heatwave started in Western Australia but has swept across the south of the country resulting in fires burning in fives states. Fanned by high winds and drought conditions it was predicted that the heatwave would pan out this week. as a drop in winds and cooler temperatures were predicted. For now the situation remains dire.
The final four months of 2012 were "abnormally hot" and this increased as 2013 began.There are reports that this heatwave is the worst for 80 years. However it does seem that such "record breaking" heatwaves are becoming more frequent in Australia.
In January 2009 the Telegraph reported a heatwave in Southern Australia as the worst for 150 years. 19 people died and bushfires raged. It was so hot that rail lines buckled.
In recent years flooding has caused chaos in Northern Australia. This has occurred almost every year. Understandably PM Gillard is convinced on the matter of global warming.