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Firefighters Continue to Battle Wildfires in Australia

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Firefighters are continuing to battle some of the most destructive wildfires to ever strike Australia's most populous state, with higher temperatures and winds expected to intensify the danger in the coming days.

The premier of New South Wales state, Barry O'Farrell, declared a state of emergency on Sunday.

Australia's Rural Fire Service said more than 60 wildfires are still burning, including several threatening communities. The RFS said the number of homes destroyed is likely to rise and that conditions are not expected to improve until Wednesday.

Evacuation orders are expected to be issued for several communities in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.

Officials are playing down earlier suggestions that all communities in the Blue Mountains, where 76,000 people live, could be evacuated. Instead, warnings will be issued to communities directly at risk.



The fires, stretching along a 300-kilometer-long front, have killed one man, destroyed more than 200 homes in New South Wales state and damaged another 122 since Thursday.

The blazes have been extraordinarily intense and early in an annual fire season that peaks during the southern hemisphere summer, which begins in December.

Firefighters in eastern Australia are racing to contain huge outbreaks that officials fear could merge to create a "mega blaze" west of Sydney. Authorities in New South Wales say the region is facing an "unparalleled" emergency."

Water-bombing helicopters are supporting 2,000 firefighters, but their efforts are at the mercy of the weather.

Strong winds are expected to return later in the week, heaping more pressure on exhausted emergency crews and anxious residents.

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