Schools close across Australia’s south as bush-fire threat looms

SYDNEY – More than 100 schools in Australia’s south-east were closed on Wednesday (Nov 20) and officials warned people in high-risk zones to be ready to evacuate as forecast high temperatures risked opening up a new front in raging bush fires.

Australia has been battling wildfires across a number of fronts for several days, endangering thousands of people in many communities.

Blazes so far this month have claimed at least four lives, burnt about a million hectares of farmland and bush, and destroyed more than 300 homes.

On Wednesday, attention shifted from the east coast to South Australia state, where officials lifted the fire danger warning to “catastrophic”, with temperatures poised to hit 42 deg C and strong winds also forecast.

A catastrophic warning means that should a fire start, it will not be possible for firefighters to control it, given the weather conditions.

“Should a fire start, the fire activity will be intense, it will be fast and it will be difficult to control,” Mr Brenton Eden, assistant chief officer at the South Australian Country Fire Service told reporters in Adelaide, the state capital.

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