- SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) --
Searing temperatures and a wave of bush fires in eastern Australia have
forced hundreds of volunteers to abandon Christmas festivities to battle
- Despite using helicopters and water-bombers, shifting
winds are making the task tougher for thousands of firefighters in New
South Wales trying to contain around 70 separate bush fires.
- Fanned by hot, gusting winds, several blazes have burned
out of control forcing some areas of Sydney's outer suburbs to be evacuated.
- By mid-afternoon Tuesday parts of Sydney were shrouded
in smoke from a ring of surrounding blazes.
- Several roads leading to and from the city were closed
by fires, but there have been no reports of any fatalities.
- The national park area of the Blue Mountains, west of
Sydney, is also under threat.
- Most of the fires are believed to have been deliberately
- Authorities still fear that stronger winds could spark
more spot fires jumping containment lines.
- Winds in parts of the state are gusting up to 50kmh but
damage to property has been minimal.
- A total fire ban was declared on Christmas Day for most
of NSW, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory, forcing many traditional
barbecue dinners to be canceled.
- Fires also hit Christmas Eve festivities late Monday
in the national capital Canberra.
- Homes were evacuated in parts of the city as fires neared
- Flames came to within 20 meters of Government House,
the home of Australian Governor-General Peter Hollingworth.
- Bushfires are common in the Australian summer when high
temperatures, dry timber and gusting winds fuel blazes.
- A rising mercury level in Australia has also led to the
deaths of five elderly people in Brisbane, Queensland, local news media
- Gripped by a heatwave, temperatures in parts of the northeastern
Australian state were predicted to reach the low 40s (Celsius) Tuesday.
- People were encouraged to stay out of the heat and increase
their water intake as a precaution against the rising temperature.
- Relief was in sight, with showers and thunderstorms forecast
for much of the state on Wednesday and Thursday.