Australian Wildfires: New South Wales in Flames With Fears of Worse to Come

Three separate fires could merge into massive blaze that will force mass evacuations

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More than 50 wildfires continued to rage across the Australian state of New South Wales on Monday evening, including at least 14 burning out of control. Firefighters battled to prevent three blazes in the Blue Mountains from combining into one “mega-fire” that could force residents in Sydney’s north-west to evacuate their homes, authorities said.

Emergency services warned that hot, dry weather and strong winds forecast for Wednesday could see the danger continue for some time. Isolated storms are predicted for the worst-hit area of the Blue Mountains on Tuesday, but meteorologists say it is unlikely that there will be enough rain to dampen the fires and that they could bring other risks like erratic winds and lightning that could spark even more conflagrations.

Live Fire Map

New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell declared a month-long state of emergency across New South Wales on Sunday to give additional powers to emergency services as they work to control the fires, which have left one man dead and destroyed hundreds of homes since Thursday.

Two boys aged 11 and 15  have been arrested over deliberately lit fires in the Hunter region, Sky News reported Monday. Police also received a handful of reports of looters targeting abandoned homes in bushfire-affected areas, Commissioner Andrew Scipione said on Monday.

Fire captain: “Ordinary people doing extraordinary things”

Photographs of Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott fighting fires with other volunteers in his local community caused a stir on social media over the weekend.

Insurance estimates stand at $90 million with at least 855 claims made so far, the Australian Associated Press reports.