Australia dispatched 3,000 reserve troops to help contain the raging bushfires across the country. Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said this is the first time this has happened in Australia’s history.
The temperatures have surpassed 40C in parts of south-east Australia. Officials had warned that Saturday was set to be a “dangerous day”.
Since September, fires in Australia have killed at least 23 people.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters: “We have seen this disaster escalate to an entirely new level.”
Dozens of people are missing and some 1,500 homes have already been lost this fire season.
Morrison also announced allocation of A$20 million to lease four water bomber planes. Defence force bases will provide temporary accommodation, he said.
In Victoria, three fires have converged overnight becoming a 6,000-hectare blaze. The state has already declared a disaster in areas that are home to some 100,000 people and it had urged residents to leave. Twenty-one people remain unaccounted for in Victoria. Phone lines are down in some areas.
On Friday, Australian navy evacuated some 1,000 tourists and residents who were trapped in the fire-ravaged town of Mallacoota on the Victoria coast.
Another ship, HMAS Adelaide, will set sail from Sydney on Saturday and will be located offshore ready to evacuate citizens from the coast if needed.
New South Wales (NSW) has declared a week-long state of emergency. Tens of thousands of residents and holidaymakers were warned to evacuate coastal areas, where a “tourist leave zone” has been declared.
More than one hundred fires are currently burning in NSW according to Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. Some 3,000 firefighters are on the ground in NSW.
Near Batemans Bay, some 30,000 people have lost power.
Authorities in south-east Australia are bracing for a weekend of high temperatures and strong winds, which are threatening to worsen bushfire conditions across the country.
Meteorologists say a climate system in the Indian Ocean, known as the dipole, is the main driver behind the extreme heat in Australia.
However, many parts of Australia have been in drought conditions, some for years, which has made it easier for the fires to spread and grow.