Australian firefighters battling destructive bushfires in New South Wales are preparing for worsening conditions in the next few days.
The return of hot weather and strong winds is expected to fan the flames – the worst in the state for 40 years.
New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell declared a State of Emergency on Sunday and several areas are being evacuated.
The Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, has been the worst-hit region with some fires still raging out of control.
About 200 homes have already been destroyed and hundreds of people have been left homeless.
One man has died – possibly of a heart attack – while trying to protect his home.
After several cooler days, forecasters are predicting the return of unseasonably hot weather – with temperatures reaching 86F and higher.
“We are likely to see deteriorating conditions starting this afternoon (Sunday) as we’ve already been acutely aware of, but more so as we move into Monday and Tuesday,” Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.
An emergency warning was issued for the Blue Mountains village of Bell on Sunday morning.
Residents were urged to evacuate or to take shelter “in a solid structure when the fire front arrives”.
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