Australia wildfires set to get worse as another 'extreme heatwave' looms

Aubrey Allegretti, news reporter

Australia is bracing for yet more wildfires as another "extreme heatwave" is expected to hit the country.

Firefighters are taking advantage of a temporary bout of cooler weather, but there are still more than 70 blazes in New South Wales alone.

So far the fires have burned around five million hectares (12.35 million acres) of land, killed nine people and destroyed more than 950 homes.

Authorities are bracing for things to get worse as high temperatures return.

Sydney is forecast to hit 31C (88F) on Sunday before reaching 35C on Tuesday, while the city's western suburbs could reach 41C.

Adelaide in South Australia is on course to reach a sizzling 40C at the start of a four-day heatwave.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Rose Barr said a heatwave was currently building in southern parts of New South Wales and would worsen at the weekend.

"Some areas are forecast to reach extreme heatwave conditions," she said.

"With the increasing heat and winds, the fire danger will worsen into the new week, with Monday and Tuesday most likely to be the most significant fire weather days."

Fire danger ratings remain very high in north-western New South Wales, and high in Sydney.

In his annual Christmas message, Prime Minister Scott Morrison paid tribute to two volunteer firefighters - Geoffrey Keaton, 32, and Andrew O'Dwyer, 36 - who died last week battling blazes.

The wildfire crisis forced Mr Morrison to cut short his much-criticised family holiday in Hawaii and fly home to Australia on Saturday night.

"To Andrew and Geoffrey's parents, we know this is going to be a tough Christmas for you, first one without both those two amazing men," he said.

"I want to thank all those who serve our nation, serving as volunteers fighting those fires as we speak.”

Both men died when their truck overturned near the town of Buxton after a tree fell into their path.