Victoria braces for the worst as an extreme heatwave is set to bring destructive bushfires more severe than 2009’s deadly Black Saturday
Victoria is bracing for a ‘very extreme’ heatwave tipped to be worse than the fatal Black Saturday fires from a decade ago.
As New South Wales and Queensland battle out-of-control and catastrophic fires, the Victorian government say they’re preparing for weather conditions worse than the state has ever experienced.
Victoria was ravaged by Australia’s most devastating bushfires on February 7, 2009, which claimed the lives 173 people and burnt through 450,000 hectares of land.
More than 2000 houses were destroyed and the RSPCA estimated that about one million animals died during the blazes.
An assessment by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning found that a ‘one-in-110 years’ heatwave was on the cards for Victoria, The Age reported.
The heatwave is pegged to be more destructive than the ‘one-in-25 years’ hot spells of 2009 and 2014 and the likelihood of the extreme weather is expected to double over the next 11 years.
It’s also warned ‘severe heatwaves’ could appear annually, instead of every couple of years on average.
Planning for an increase in extreme weather is underway for health, transport, water, agriculture, education, energy and emergency services, Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said.
A scenario of seven days of 40C weather has also been modelled by Victorian emergency service planners for training.
The mock-up led to 900 heatwave related deaths and fires savaging the state, as well as electricity and public transport shutting down.
A departmental document said: ‘Risk managers are also planning for the impact of a very extreme heatwave event on Victoria, an unprecedented scenario 10 per cent more severe than the 2009 Black Saturday heatwave.’
‘An event of this magnitude would cause irreparable damage to the natural and engineered systems that underpin the Victorian economy.’
In the weeks prior to February 7, 2009, south-eastern Australia was hit by a heatwave, building on two months of dry and hot conditions.
By the morning of Black Saturday, there were northwesterly winds of more than 100 kilometres per hour, which brought hot and dry air from the centre of the country.
There were almost 400 individual fires burning across Victoria by evening.
In January 2003, Canberra and its outer areas experienced one of their worst natural disasters on record.
More than 500 homes were destroyed and four people died.
The 2013–14 Australian bushfire season led to four fatalities, two in New South Wales, one in Western Australia and another in Victoria.
New South Wales is bracing ‘unprecedented’ conditions on Tuesday, in what could be the most dangerous bushfire week in Australia’s history, with more than 3000 firefighters and 60 aircraft ready to fight the blazes.
Temperatures in the high 30s, low humidity and winds of up to 80 kilometres per hour, coupled with the drought, mean the state faces ‘horrendous conditions’, according to the NSW Rural Fire Service .
A week-long state of emergency has been declared in NSW and the Australian Defence Force is on standby to provide support – including for search and rescue operations – if required.
Some 600 schools have been closed for the day.
Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said residents were facing what ‘could be the most dangerous bushfire week this nation has ever seen’.
There are also extreme fire danger ratings – the second highest – in place for the North Coast, Southern Ranges, Central Ranges, New England, Northern Slopes and North Western areas.
The bushfires, which hit hard on Friday, have so far claimed the lives of three people and destroyed at least 150 homes in the state’s north.