Australian firefighters on Saturday said expect a reprieve brought by cooler conditions the country will face strong winds and hot temperatures that fanned flames.
Fire crews endured a testing night after erratic winds triggered dangerous conditions and authorities issued emergency warnings and immediate evacuation orders.
Three major blazes merged at the borders of the neighbouring states New South Wales and Victoria to form a “mega-fire,” covering over 600,000 hectares.
Parts of both states saw wind gusts of up to 90 kilometres per hour, while the temperature in some fire-affected areas reached 44 degrees Celsius.
In Victoria, a fire near the city of Wodonga forced evacuations overnight.
In New South Wales, over 3,500 firefighters were deployed overnight.
The state’s Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said several people had been injured, but initial reports suggest no homes were lost.
Fitzsimmons said cooler weather over the coming week is expected to offer “some reprieve” and “will probably be the best seven days we have had without a rise of very dangerous fire ratings coming towards us.”
More than 140 fires were still burning in New South Wales; however none at the emergency warning level, while in Victoria there was one emergency warning in place.
Across Australia, over 10 million hectares of land has burned since the bush fire season started in September, early for the burn season.
No fewer than 26 people have died and several thousand homes have been destroyed.