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Residents of Australia’s Fraser Island Township Urged to Evacuate as Wildfire Approaches


File- In this photo provided on Dec. 2, 2020, by the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services smoke blows over hills and toward the ocean at Fraser Island, Australia.

Authorities in Australia's state of Queensland Monday urged residents to immediately evacuate a small town on Fraser Island as a wildfire approaches.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Director Brian Cox said the wildfire was just 700 meters from the town of Happy Valley and told residents the safest option was to leave. Fraser Island is a U.N. Educational, Scientific Cultural Organization (UNESCO) heritage site.

Cox said about 90 percent of the island’s emergency staff were fighting the wildfires on the island, and authorities were preparing for the worst. Cox said ongoing heatwave conditions and a "a tinder dry environment” has made fighting the fire more difficult.

He added that firefighters are going to do all they can to keep the fire from hitting the township, but he said about 90 percent of the island emergency crews and resources being used to fight fires across the island.

Some residents have stayed behind to try to protect their homes. The island has roughly 200 permanent residents, though it is often flocked with tourists.

Fraser Island is the world’s largest “sand island” with a rare combination of rainforests and shifting sand dunes.

This year’s Australia’s wildfires appear to be picking up where last year’s left off. The 2019-2020 season destroyed an area of land twice the size of Britain, killing 33 people and billions of native animals, leading Prime Minister Scott Morrison to refer to it as Australia's "black summer.”

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