Residents on Australia’s Fraser Island, a major tourist site in Queensland state, were on Monday instructed to evacuate as an out of control bushfire threatened lives.
Warnings remained in place on Monday for residents in the Happy Valley region to “leave immediately” as firefighters struggled to stop the spread of the blaze, using aerial water bombing aircraft and on the ground containment measures, reports Xinhua news agency.
The fire has already scorched more than half of the World Heritage listed island, off Queensland State’s east coast, since spreading from an illegal campfire six weeks ago.
“Conditions are now very dangerous and firefighters may soon be unable to prevent the fire advancing. The fire may pose a threat to all lives directly in its path,” Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) said in a statement.
“Leaving immediately is the safest option, as it will soon be too dangerous to drive.”
The Fraser Island bushfire is one of the most significant blazes Australia has seen since the 2019-20 “Black Summer” fire season which destroyed thousands of homes and claimed 33 lives, including nine firefighters.
Nearly 3 billion animals were also killed or displaced, and the fires harmed many threatened species and ecological communities.
As the world’s largest sand island, Fraser Island’s inaccessibility has proved a challenge for fire crews, who also faced adverse conditions in the form of high temperatures and winds.
On Monday, authorities in the neighbouring state of New South Wales sent a large air tanker named The Marie Bashir to assist with containing the fire.
Last week, most of Australia was hit by the extreme heatwave with temperatures reaching a high of at least 40 degrees Celsius.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) also warned of continued fire danger in the southern and eastern Australian states as the record-breaking heatwave will continue in the coming days.