18 Jan 2003 mbp   » (Master)

Canberra on fire

A state of emergency has been declared in Canberra because of severe bushfires. Dozens of houses are on fire. Fire officers on the radio report that the fire is out of control and they are just trying to preserve life and property. About 2/3rds of the city is declared "under threat".

Roads to the south (Monaro Hwy) and west are shut off. Fires are also burning in the Snowy Mountains, Brindabellas and north of Sydney. 100,000 hectares are reporting to be burning or burnt out in Kosciuszko National Park.

The sky is eerie. It varies from black to golden to green and blue like a bruise. It's overcast like the beginning of a thunderstorm, but the light is yellow rather than blue, and the air is parched. It's very hot -- up to 43C in the middle of town, now down to 36C. Strong winds are blowing embers and causing spot fires 10-15km ahead of the fire front.

A few water-dumping helicopters are overhead but visibility is becoming too poor for them to continue flying.

Some of my friends are in suburbs that are on alert, but nobody I know is immediately threatened.

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