UK & World News
Australia Fires: State Of Emergency Amid Fears
A state of emergency has been declared in New South Wales as Australian firefighters try to contain the area's worst bushfires in more than a decade.
Hundreds of homes have been destroyed or damaged and fire crews are braced for conditions to get worse in the coming days.
Higher temperatures and strong winds are expected to make the situation more dangerous this week after recent milder weather.
The bushfires are some of the most destructive ever to hit New South Wales - the country's most populous state.
Around 1,500 firefighters have been working to contain the blazes, which have been very intense.
They have happened earlier than usual in an annual fire season that normally peaks in the Australian summer, starting in December.
The country's dry winter and hotter than average spring are believed to have resulted in perfect fire conditions.
A total of 208 homes have been destroyed, another 122 have been damaged, and there has been at least one death.
Among the worst-affected areas is the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, where 193 homes have been razed and 109 damaged.
On Sunday firefighters were focusing on a major blaze near the town of Lithgow that stretched along a 190-mile front.
The military is investigating whether it was responsible for starting the blaze, northwest of Sydney.
The Australian Defence Force said its personnel were carrying out explosive ordnance training in the area on Wednesday, the day the blaze started.
With 61 fires still burning and dangerous weather conditions forecast until Thursday, authorities were expecting the worst.
New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell said: "The state is in for challenging days ahead not just with the three fires in and around the Blue Mountains, but also on the other two fire grounds where work is still continuing."
Shane Fitzsimmons, fire service commissioner, said: "There will be a significant impact on populated areas should all these forecasts materialise as is being suggested and indeed should the fire behaviour get to the point that we are contemplating."
On Thursday, a 63-year-old man died of a heart attack while protecting his home from fire at Lake Munmorah, north of Sydney.
At least five people including three firefighters have been treated in hospitals for burns and smoke inhalation, officials said.