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Authorities are warning that a temperature spike is coming.
Australian authorities warned people on Wednesday to prepare for another wave of evacuations as temperatures in the country’s southeast began to rise after a days-long cool spell, bringing the danger of revitalized blazes.
Firefighters have used the break from extreme heat and high winds to strengthen containment lines around several major fires, as the military continued efforts to provide supplies to thousands of people who have been left homeless.
Complicating the recovery effort, authorities have forecast another temperature spike as soon as Friday, with little rain, meaning a return to hazardous conditions.
“We are going to see some widespread severe fire danger, we are asking people to be ready,” New South Wales (NSW) state Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told Sky News.
More than 10.3 million hectares (25.5 million acres) of land - an area the size of South Korea - have been razed by bushfires that have killed 24 people in recent weeks.
Ecologists at the University of Sydney on Wednesday doubled their estimate of the number of animals killed or injured in the fires to 1 billion, as the U.N. World Meteorological Organization confirmed that smoke from the blazes has drifted as far as South America.
The three major cities in Australia’s southeast, Sydney, Melbourne and the capital Canberra, were all blanketed in thick smoke, putting them among the most polluted cities in the world.
In rural areas, many towns were without power and telecommunications and some were running low on drinking water supplies.
The bushfires crisis follows a three-year drought that experts have linked to climate change and that has left much of the country’s bushland tinder-dry and vulnerable to fires.