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Australia suffers scorching heat that raises risk of wildfires

New South Wales Rural Fire Service firefighter Elisabeth Goh monitors a hazard reduction burn in Sydney, Australia, September 10, 2023. REUTERS/Cordelia Hsu/File Photo Acquire license rights

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Southeastern Australia was hit by a sweltering heat wave on Sunday, raising the risk of wildfires and prompting authorities to issue fire bans across large swathes of New South Wales state.

The country’s meteorologist said temperatures would be up to 12 degrees Celsius (53.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above average in some areas, with Sydney, capital of Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, reaching 36 C (96 .8F).

At Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport, the temperature was already 28°C (82.4F) at 10am (2300 GMT), more than five degrees above the average maximum temperature for September, according to data from forecasters.

Australia faces high-risk bushfire season as it experiences a El Niño weather eventrecently announced, which is usually associated with extreme events such as forest fires, cyclones and droughts.

State Emergency Services Minister Jihad Dib said the “absorbing” heat raised the risk of wildfires in the coming week.

“Not only is it hot, but it’s also dry and windy, and those conditions combined are the perfect storm,” Dib said, announcing the start of an official wildfire danger period.

Fire authorities on Sunday issued nine total fire bans in parts of the state in a bid to reduce the possibility of wildfires.

Australia’s last two fire seasons have been quiet compared to the catastrophic 2019-2020. “Black summer” of forest fires that destroyed an area the size of Turkey and killed 33 people.

Reporting by Sam McKeith in Sydney Editing by Nick Zieminski

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