News / Asia

Firefighters, Officials Race to Save Homes from Australian Bushfire

  • Firefighters spray foam on smoldering bush to help reduce reflash fires after a blaze swept through Faulconbridge, west of Sydney, Oct. 24, 2013.
  • Rural Fire Service frefighters take a break after trying to extinguish a fire approaching homes near the Blue Mountains suburb of Faulconbridge, west of Sydney, Oct. 24, 2013.
  • Firefighters control flames during hazard reduction in Bilpin, Australia, Oct. 23, 2013.
  • A female Rural Fire Service firefighter walks through a burnt area after trying to extinguish a small fire approaching homes near the Blue Mountains suburb of Blackheath, west of Sydney, Oct. 23, 2013.
  • Jennifer Schweinsberg and her son David walk around the back yard of their destroyed family home in Sunny Ridge Drive in Winmaleem, near Sydney, Oct. 22, 2013.
  • A firefighter tries to control flames near houses in Bilpin, west of Sydney, Oct. 22, 2013.
  • A firefighter watches as smoke covers a road in Bilpin, west of Sydney, Oct. 22, 2013.
  • Local resident Alan Seaman looks inside a safe in the remains of his home that was destroyed by a fire in the Blue Mountains suburb of Winmalee, west of Sydney, Oct. 21, 2013.
  • Houses can be seen behind a burnt-out car and bicycle after a fire destroyed them in the Blue Mountains suburb of Winmalee, west of Sydney, Oct. 21, 2013.
  • In this photo provided by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, smoke rises from a fire near Lithgow, west of Sydney, Oct. 17, 2013.
Wildfires Ravage Southern Australia
Phil Mercer
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 have said that the region is facing an “unparalleled" emergency.
More than 50 fires continue to burn; about a dozen are out of control, and officials say three particularly large fires could join to form one monstrous wall of flame. Suburbs on the edge of Sydney could then be threatened by outbreaks that are tearing through parts of the Blue Mountains.
Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
More than 200 homes have been destroyed so far and many more have been damaged in the worst fire disaster in New South Wales in nearly 50 years.
A state of emergency has been declared, giving officials power to order people from their homes.
Mike Gallacher, the New South Wales Minister for Emergency Services, said the measures will help the firefighting effort.
“It will primarily be… police doing the forced evacuations if we need to go down that path. But [we will] also [be] working with the paid professionals in terms of making decisions within dealing with the fire threat. For example, if it's apparent that they need to cut off electricity or cut off gas utilities to an area, they've got the power to do that. They've got the power to pull down buildings and demolish buildings if they have to. They are extraordinary powers,” said Gallacher.

WATCH: Related video
Australia Struggles to Control Wildfiresi
October 21, 2013 7:22 AM
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.

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.
Helicopters dropping water 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.
What firefighters fear is a repeat of the hot temperatures, tinder dry conditions and gusty winds that fuelled outbreaks at the end of last week.
In February 2009, 173 people were killed in bushfires that tore through parts of Victoria state in Australia's worst natural disaster.

You May Like

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Through Sports, Austria Tries to Give Migrants Traction

With 85,000 people expected to claim asylum in Austria this year, its government has made integration through joint physical activities a key objective More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs