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Australia swelters through scorching heat, lifting bushfire risk

A thick blanket of smoke hangs over Sydney, which is seeing higher temperatures than usual for late September. (AP pic)

SYDNEY: Australia’s southeast on Sunday sweltered in a heat wave that raised the risk of bushfires and prompted authorities to issue fire bans for large swaths of New South Wales state.

The nation’s weather forecaster said temperatures would be up to 12°C above average in some areas, with Sydney, capital of Australia’s most populous state New South Wales, set to hit 26°C.

At Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport, the temperature was already 28°C at 10am more than five degrees above the September mean maximum temperature, according to forecaster data.

Australia faces a high risk bushfire season as it experiences an El Nino weather event, recently announced, which is typically associated with extreme events like wildfires, cyclones and droughts.

State emergency services minister Jihad Dib said the “scorching” heat lifted the risk for bushfires in the week ahead.

“Not only is it hot, it’s dry and it’s windy and those conditions combined are the perfect storm,” Dib said, announcing the start an official bushfire danger period.

Fire authorities on Sunday issued nine fire total bans for parts of the state in a bid to reduce the chance of bushfires.

Australia’s last two fire seasons have been quiet compared to the catastrophic 2019-2020 “Black Summer” of bushfires that destroyed an area the size of Turkey and killed 33 people.