"The Australia bushfires are so big that they are generating 'pyrocumulonimbus' clouds, which create their own thunderstorms that can start more fires," reported the Insider, based on data provided by the Bureau of Meteorology in Victoria.
Sydney mayor Clover Moore decided to continue the celebration despite calls by some citizens for it to be canceled in solidarity with fire-hit areas in New South Wales, of which Sidney is the capital.
Despite an environmental tragedy that is leaving thousands of people in a situation of extreme vulnerability, he argued that the New Year events had been planned for 15 months and that their cancellation would damage the local economy.
Some other towns in eastern Australia canceled their celebrations as naval vessels and military helicopters helped firefighters rescue people fleeing the fires, which have turned swathes of New South Wales into a raging furnace.
Since October, fires have killed at least 11 people, two of them overnight into Tuesday, destroyed more than 4 million hectares and left many towns and rural areas without electricity or mobile coverage.
“Over 4 million hectares of our land has been incinerated, billions of animals have perished, firefighters and local residents have lost their lives. Our country is on fire!,” Kodie Mansell tweeted.
Some tourists trapped in Australia's coastal towns posted images of blood-red, smoke-filled skies on social media. One beachfront photograph showed people lying shoulder-to-shoulder on the sand, some wearing gas masks.