The catastrophic bushfires continue to scorch large swathes of Australian territory, prompting authorities to issue new warnings and evacuation notices as the number of confirmed fatalities exceeds two dozen.
Scott Morrison, the Australian prime minister, announced in a news conference on Thursday that 27 people have lost their lives as wildfires burnt across more 25.5 million acres of land and made thousands homeless.
“There are 27 confirmed fatalities and there have been, on this morning’s reports to us, 2131 homes lost but I’m sure over the course of the day, as further damage assessments have been undertaken, particularly in Victoria, these numbers continue to sadly change and may continue to escalate. Fire weather is increasing in the south and east today and will spike along the east coast tomorrow,” Morrison said.
“I express my sincere condolences and sympathies to the families of all of those who have lost loved ones during the course of this terrible disaster,” he added.
Temperatures in the southeastern Australian state of Victoria are forecast to climb as high as 41C over the next days and be accompanied by dangerous winds and dry lightning — storms without rain.
Victoria has extended the “state of disaster” amid intensifying conditions as fires continue to endanger lives and homes.
Moreover, Australian authorities issued new warnings and evacuation notices across the country’s heavily populated southeast on Thursday as a return of hot weather fanned huge bushfires threatening several towns and communities.
The bushfires across Australia have been burning since September, also impacting the major cities of Sydney and Melbourne, home to several million people.
The World Wildlife Fund in Australia estimates that as many as 1.25 billion animals may have been killed directly or indirectly from fires fueled by drought in the country’s hottest and driest year on record.
Bushfires are common in Australia’s hot, dry summers, but the ferocity and early arrival of the fires in the southern hemisphere this year is unprecedented, with experts saying climate change has played a big role in the country’s disaster.