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Wildfires In Australia Destroy 200 Homes, May Get Worse

Authorities in Australia say major wildfires that have already scorched about 200 homes and 269,000 acres, could get worse.

CNN reports:

"'These conditions that we are looking at are a whole new ballgame and in a league of their own,' said the commissioner of rural fire services, Shane Fitzsimmons. 'The predictive charts indicate that there will be a significant impact on populated areas should all these forecasts materialize.'

"The situation is so bad that New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell declared a state of emergency for the state, which includes Sydney. The declaration gives firefighters special authority as conditions worsen.

'These powers include the right to order the public to leave or to enter an area, the right to shore up or demolish a building, and of course it also prevents people from disobeying an order given under these powers,' O'Farrell said Sunday."

The BBC reports that for one of the worst hit areas, The Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, this is the most dangerous fire in 40 years.

The big fear, however, is that the two fires in that area could combine with one burning near Lithgow and threaten the Sydney suburbs.

"The foot of the Blue Mountains lies just across the Nepean River from the suburbs of Sydney. Some embers jumped its banks last Thursday, starting a fire at Castlereagh near Penrith," the BBC reports. "After several cooler days, forecasters are predicting the return of unseasonably hot weather - with temperatures reaching 30C (86F) and higher."

Australia's ABC reports that some residents in the area have been told to leave, because the worst conditions are not expected until Wednesday.

The country's Rural Fire Service (RFS) has a map of the fires, which very clearly shows the danger Sydney is facing.

"It is in my view uncharted territory," RFS' Fitzsimmons told the ABC. "We are dealing with unparalleled conditions, which is why we're taking this extremely seriously."

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