At least 71 homes have been destroyed in the raging wildfires near Perth, Western Australia, according to authorities who have asked residents to ignore the current lockdown to evacuate.
The blaze has ravaged large swathes of land in the Perth Hills area and the flames are advancing towards the more densely populated areas of the nation’s fourth largest city.
No fatalities or serious injuries have been reported so far, but six firefighters have been slightly affected.
“For people who have lost their homes, it is just appalling. Our thoughts are with them, ”said Darren Klemm, the Western Australian Fire Chief.
Several emergency alerts have been issued as the situation is expected to worsen with strong gusts of wind forecast for Wednesday that risk stoking the flames.
Perth entered a five-day containment phase on Sunday due to the discovery of the first case of local transmission of the coronavirus in ten months in the state of Western Australia.
About two million people in Perth and the neighboring regions of Peel and the South West have to stay in their homes.
The return to school scheduled for Monday has been postponed. Residents can only leave their homes if their work is “essential”, to run errands, play sports or go to the doctor.
“The best thing: to leave”
As the flames approached more populated areas, Mr. Klemm urged the threatened residents to disregard the containment order.
“The evacuation takes precedence over any quarantine requirements people may have,” he insisted.
Hundreds of people have fled the area since Monday and many have taken refuge in evacuation centers.
Among them, Peter Lavis, 68, who evacuated Monday after seeing the flames set ablaze the landscape, “as if a bomb had exploded”.
“You could see the fire very well, the red glow and occasionally the flames emanating from it,” he said. “We had a little family reunion and we thought the best thing to do was leave.”
Smoke darkened the sky over Perth, about 30 kilometers west of the fires, which destroyed nearly 10,000 hectares.
“It was just scorched earth. Even where I was, behind the fire, it was still burning, because the teams had to react so quickly, ”Mayor Kevin Bailey told public broadcaster ABC.
The mercury is likely to reach 35 degrees Wednesday. Authorities are hoping for a drop in temperatures and rainfall at the end of the week.
Last year, more than 3.5 million hectares were burnt in Western Australia during a particularly devastating forest fire season.
But the state had not been as hard hit materially as those of New South Wales and Victoria.
The fires come back every austral summer in Australia. But they are more and more virulent due to various phenomena linked to global warming. The increase in temperature, the increase in heat waves and the drop in precipitation in places is therefore an ideal combination for the development of fires.