SYDNEY (DPA) - Firefighters are racing to get more than 130 blazes on Australia's east coast under control before the fire danger spikes again on Friday (Sept 13), when high temperatures and strong winds are expected.
"It'll be a bit of a race against time to try and get as much containment as we can on the fires ahead of the worsening conditions," New South Wales' Rural Fire Service deputy commissioner Rob Rogers said on Channel 9 on Wednesday.
More than 5,000 people have been forced to flee their homes at Peregian on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, 109km north of Brisbane, according to the local fire service. The evacuees are waiting for the authorities to say it is safe to return to their homes.
A Boeing 737 aircraft and helicopters bombarded the fire front with water to prevent the infernos advancing into the Peregian settlement and reaching the popular tourist beach town of Noosa.
At least 25 homes and five commercial properties have been destroyed on the east coast since around 130 fires broke out six days ago, according to Queensland and New South Wales fire authorities.
More than 300,000ha of forested land have gone up in flames since the blazes started last Thursday, spreading rapidly due to tinder dry conditions from three years of drought.
At least 10 of the fires were deliberately lit, eight of them by teenagers, Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said.
"Some of these have just been kids playing with fire, some deliberate and some repeat offenders," she said on Channel 7's Sunrise programme. Some of the children were issued cautions, while others will face charges.