Little relief from Australia bush fires

Firefighter battles blaze.

NEW SOUTH WALES — Cooler weather has brought some relief to south-east Australia as fire crews continue to battle bush fires across several states.

Temperatures in New South Wales have fallen more than 10C, after one of the highest-risk fire days in its history.

But scorching conditions are predicted to return at the weekend and new fires are spreading despite the drop, authorities say.

The fires have destroyed buildings in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.

Firefighters in Queensland are monitoring conditions closely in the state’s south, as hot weather moves towards the coast. Temperatures are forecast to reach the high 40s in some parts.

Across the Sydney area top temperatures fell to below 30C today, after passing 40C yesterday.

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service has downgraded fire danger ratings around the state following a favourable change in conditions overnight.

NSW Rural Fire Service worker sprays water on a bush fire at Green Point in New South Wales on 8 January 2013 Hundreds of fire crews have been tackling the blazes

On Tuesday four areas had been given a “catastrophic” fire danger rating, meaning that if fires broke out they would be uncontrollable and fast-moving, so residents should leave.

However, despite the cooler weather, more than 130 fires are still burning in New South Wales, around 30 of which have not been contained.

The blazes are along the coast, and also in the north-west of the state, but the largest concentration is in the south-east, around the Canberra area.

Fire services are trying to contain a big fire still burning near Cooma, 100 kilometres south of Canberra. Yesterday, authorities had advised residents to seek shelter, saying it was too late to leave.

Thousands of livestock are estimated to have died in the bush fires. All national parks, state forests and reserves have been closed to the public. (BBC)

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