Dozens Of Brush Fires
Rage Across Australia

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 the blazes.
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 lit.
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 the city.
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 reported.
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.

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