Two Australian states, Queensland and New South Wales, have declared a state of emergency as bushfires bring a “catastrophic” threat to heavily populated areas of the nation’s east.
Three people were killed and more than 150 homes were destroyed over the weekend in bushfires in northern New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland.
More than 100 fires were still burning in New South Wales and Queensland on Monday morning.
Fires in the state’s northeast have razed more than 850,000 hectares (3,300 square miles) of forest and farmland since Friday.
Fire conditions are forecast to be worse on Tuesday than they were at the peak of the current fire emergency on Friday.
“The catastrophic weather conditions mean that things can change very quickly,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.
“You might think you’re OK and a few minutes later you won’t be. Please heed all the messages you receive. Tomorrow (Tuesday) is not the day to be complacent,” she added.
Fire conditions are set to be at their worst on Tuesday. There are fears that Sydney could be threatened in the coming days, temperatures are set to soar to more than 34 degrees Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit), with strong, dry winds.
Authorities raised the forecast for greater Sydney region to catastrophic fire danger for Tuesday, the first time the city has been rated at that level since new fire danger ratings were introduced in 2009.
The annual Australian fire season, which peaks during the Southern Hemisphere summer, has started early after an unusually warm and dry winter.