In Brief

'Catastrophic' Wildfires Hit Australia

Australian forest fire
An intense crown fire burns in a eucalyptus-dominated wet sclerophyll forest in the Kilmore area of Victoria, Australia on Feb. 2, 2009. (Image credit: Richard Alder AFSM, National Aerial Firefighting Centre)

About 100 bushfires raging in New South Wales, Australia's most populated state, forced thousands of people to flee their homes yesterday. Smoke and ash drifted into Syndey on Thursday, casting a yellow pall over the famed Syndey Opera House.

Unseasonably warm temperatures and strong winds fanned the flames, according to news reports. The extreme weather followed a dry, warm winter. There were no reports of deaths, but the extent of damage is unknown, because some fires are too intense for firefighters to safely battle the 'catatrosphic' blazes, the Syndey Morning Herald reported. More than 30 fires were burning out of control on Thursday night, and several hundred homes may have been destroyed.

Read more: Global Warming Worsened Australia's Record Hot Summer

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Becky Oskin
Contributing Writer
Becky Oskin covers Earth science, climate change and space, as well as general science topics. Becky was a science reporter at Live Science and The Pasadena Star-News; she has freelanced for New Scientist and the American Institute of Physics. She earned a master's degree in geology from Caltech, a bachelor's degree from Washington State University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz.