More than 100 wildfires raging like a “flamethrower” across southeast Australia have razed homes and sent hundreds of citizens fleeing from the blazes that could continue burning for weeks, officials said Tuesday.
The bush and grass fires have been scorching the eastern coasts of the neighboring states of Queensland and New South Wales since Friday after an unusually warm and dry year left parts of the country in a combustible state.
At least 26 homes have been destroyed and 73 sustained damage, with damages expected to rise once officials can check the fire-devastated areas, News.com.au reported.
No deaths have been reported as at least 400 citizens evacuated to shelters in the region, Queensland deputy premier Jackie Trad told Sky News. An estimated tens of thousands of acres have been destroyed across both states as of Tuesday, according to the outlet.
Firefighters battling the estimated 130 blazes have said the most serious scorched like a “flamethrower,” warning that continued strong winds and dry weather could see the fires burn for weeks, News.com.au reported.
A blaze near the New South Wales state town of Tenterfield seriously injured 66-year-old volunteer firefighter Neville Smith on Friday, Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said. He was flown to a hospital, where his condition was listed Saturday as critical but stable.
At least eight fires are reportedly being investigated as suspicious and authorities are interviewing several teenagers and children regarding them.
The early start to Australia’s wildfire season has experts saying this year’s forecast will be worse than average across most of the country.
The worst fires in recent decades killed 173 people and razed more than 2,000 homes in Victoria state toward the end of summer in 2009.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.