Millions of people in Australia’s east are seeing what could be the worst bushfires in at least a decade.
Some 70 fires are burning in the state of New South Wales, with around half of them uncontained or out of control.
Eleven emergency warnings are in place, meaning that people are in urgent danger and must take emergency action.
Image: The Blue Mountains is among the areas affected in the eastern state
In many of these places, residents have been told it is too late to leave their homes and they must find shelter.
The fires have ripped through more than one million hectares (3,800 square miles) since Friday, killing three people and damaging more than 150 homes.
More than 100 people, including 20 firefighters, have been treated for fire-related injuries.
On Tuesday, at least three more properties were ruined by a blaze at Hillville, south of Taree, which is one of the areas covered by the emergency warnings.
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More than 3,000 firefighters are tackling the blazes or preparing to do so – some from other Australian states and New Zealand – supported by around 60 aircraft.
All regions of Sydney, the state’s main city, have hazardous air quality, with the state’s ambulance service saying it has responded to dozens of calls from those suffering from respiratory conditions worsened by the smoke.
Image: Residents in some places have been told it is too late to leave their homes and they should find shelter
Officials had known Tuesday was going to be an extremely difficult day.
On Monday they confirmed that parts of NSW would face a fire risk deemed “catastrophic” – a rating not used in the state since the fire danger ratings were introduced a decade ago.
Temperatures are expected to reach the high 30s in some places, combining with winds of up to 56mph.
Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said: “The reality is conditions will simply continue to get worse and deteriorate over the coming hours and particularly this afternoon.
“We plan for these sorts of days. But we always hope they never come.”
Image: A firefighter works on flames at Koorainghat, near Taree in New South Wales
There are also 55 fires burning in the state of Queensland to the north.
Both states have declared states of emergency, which allow their fire services to direct government agencies as needed.
In Queensland, more than 1,000 firefighters and 40 aircraft are fighting the flames but, despite their efforts, 12 homes have been destroyed.
The state’s premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was especially grateful to the 110 firefighters coming from Tasmania, Northern Territory and New Zealand.
“We know when we go through a national crisis, everybody helps out and we do the same.”
Image: Temperatures are expected to reach the high 30s in some places
The Bureau of Meteorology said temperatures in some parts of the state would be up to 8C above average with particularly severe conditions in the south east.
Fire and emergency services acting commissioner Mike Wassing added: “This is a long haul, this is a marathon for us with sprints in between.”
The worst fires in Australia were in 2009, killing 173 people and injuring 414 in Victoria.
Source : Sky News