Australia bushfires: Temperature rise leads to mass evacuations

Hot and windy weather is forecast to bring more dangerous conditions for residents living in the path of wildfires in southeast Australia.

The New South Wales (NSW) coastal communities of Nowra, Narooma and Batemans Bay, situated south of Sydney, were urged to evacuate as the return of hot weather and northwesterly winds fanned bushfires threatening communities.

Tourists and residents have been forced to retreat to the beaches and even into the ocean in recent weeks as the ongoing fires and smoke encroach on towns and sand dunes.

In the neighbouring state of Victoria fire-threatened populations were also urged to act quickly on evacuation warnings.

"If you receive instructions to leave, then you must leave," Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said.

"We can't guarantee your safety and we don't want to be putting emergency services - whether it be volunteers or paid staff - we do not want to put them in harm's way because people didn't follow advice that was given."

"If you can get out, you should get out," said Andrew Crisp, Victoria's emergency management commissioner.

"Because tomorrow is going to be a dangerous and dynamic day."

The unprecedented crisis has killed at least 26 people, destroyed more than 2,000 homes and wiped out wildlife.

An area the size of South Korea - 10.3 million hectares (25.5 million acres) - has been scorched by the fires.

:: Listen to the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts , Google Podcasts , Spotify , Spreaker

Australia's prime minister Scott Morrison has been heavily criticised both at home and abroad for downplaying the need for his government to address climate change, which experts say is helping supercharge the blazes.

The country has experienced a three-year drought and no substantial rainfall is forecast for the coming months.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology reported only 6% of typical annual rainfall last year, while daytime temperatures were more than 2C (3.6F) above normal. making 2019 Australia's hottest and driest year on record.

It said on Thursday temperatures were likely to remain higher than average over the next few months.

The bureau's head of climate monitoring, Karl Braganza, said while the country's rainfall was expected to pick up a bit, it would not be enough to snuff out the blazes anytime soon.

"Unfortunately, we're not looking at widespread, above-average rainfalls at this stage," he said.

"That's really what we need to put the fires out fairly quickly. It is going to be a campaign, in terms of the fires. We are not looking at a short and sharp end to the event - it looks like something that we will have to persist with for some time."

He added: "Australia's getting warmer, the fire season's getting longer and the severity of the fire weather during that season is getting more frequent and severe.

"When we look at the projections that we do for climate change, certainly Australia should be preparing for those trends to continue."

The New South Wales government responded to the continuing crisis by announcing an additional $1bn (£520m) to be spent over the next two years on wildfire management and recovery.

About 100 firefighters from the United States and Canada are helping with another 140 expected in coming weeks.

Celebrities including Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie and Sir Elton John have donated money to help communities that have been affected and to recruit more firefighters.