Heatwave Ramps Up Wildfire Threat in Blaze-Ravaged Australia

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(Bloomberg) -- Dangerous wildfire conditions are returning to Australia’s southeast, with a weekend heatwave again putting stretched authorities on high alert.

The heatwave is set to worsen conditions in New South Wales, the state that’s suffered the most damage in the unprecedented fire season, and where more than 50 blazes continued to burn on Friday. Firefighters are working to contain 10 fires in Victoria state.

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The nation’s capital Canberra, which is facing its worst wildfire threat since 2003 when four lives and about 500 homes were lost, remains shrouded in smoke and in a state of alert. A fire that’s burnt 15,000 hectares south of the city is expected to edge toward the city on Friday with temperatures forecast to reach 41 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit) on consecutive days.

The fire season has been plaguing Australia for months, burning out an area almost the size of England and killing at least 31 people. The drought is exacerbating the dangers, according to New South Wales’ Rural Fire Service spokesman Rob Rogers.

“These fires are just moving so quickly because the landscape is so dry and these winds are pushing them along at unbelievable speed,” Rogers said in a television interview on Friday.

While Australia’s conservative government has acknowledged that climate change has played a role in the severity of the crisis, it has rejected demands to take stronger steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions amid fierce criticism at home and abroad over its environmental policies.

Instead, Prime Minister Scott Morrison insists the nation must become more resilient to the impacts of a changing climate, even as he supports moves to open new coal mines, rejects the need to punish carbon polluters and insists the government’s main energy-sector priority is to lower electricity prices.

“I don’t think Australians should be taxed more to reduce their emissions,” he told reporters on Friday. “Australians should have available to them and Australian industry have available to them the technologies that enable them to move forward into the future and keep jobs here, keep jobs here and get prices down.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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