2 dead and 100 homes destroyed in Australian bushfires

Unprecedented bushfire crisis grips New South Wales, as 1,000 firefighters struggle to tame blaze

Unprecedented bushfire crisis grips New South Wales, as 1,000 firefighters struggle to tame blaze

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) confirmed two people had been killed by a fire near Glen Innes, more than 550 km (340 miles) north of Sydney.

The fires, which flared up along the country's east coast on Friday afternoon, also destroyed more than 100 homes.

As of 5:30 p.m. local time Friday (1:30 a.m. ET) there were 96 fires across the state, with 57 burning out of control, according to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS).

New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told local media that nearly 1,200 firefighters and 70 aircraft had been deployed "to save as many people as possible", with around 92,000 people affected by the fires.

The fire season in Australia varies by area and weather conditions, although it usually occurs during the southern summer (between the months of December and March).

But this is a dramatic start to what scientists predict will be a tough fire season ahead - with climate change and unfavourable weather cycles helping created a tinderbox of strong winds, low humidity, and high temperatures.

"I can only recall a figure of less than 10 that we (previously) got to, which was an extraordinary event in years past", Fitzsimmons said.

Farther north, in Queensland, thousands of residents near the resort town of Noosa, on the Sunshine Coast, spent the night in evacuation centers.

"We still haven't got intelligence from a number of the fire grounds that we know have been impacted dramatically", Fitzsimmons told Nine Network television.

Nearly 100 blazes pockmarked the New South Wales and Queensland countryside - although just five of them remained highly risky. Some residents in Jacobs Spur near the town of Kempsey have been told it is too late to evacuate so they should take shelter immediately.

It warned that some blazes were creating their own weather conditions and that fire clouds - which can produce lightning without rain - were developing. But a prolonged drought and low humidity levels will continue to make circumstances combustible.

Winds are set to be "relentless" throughout the evening, Fitzsimmons added.

Earlier this month some of the same fires cloaked Sydney in hazardous smoke for days, giving the city a higher concentration of particles per million than cities like Bangkok, Jakarta or Hong Kong.

Swathes of Australia have gone months without adequate rainfall, forcing farmers to truck in water at exorbitant cost, sell off livestock or leave their land to lay fallow.

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