Tourists saved by boat from bushfire as heatwave strikes Australia

A bushfire burns in Sydney's Royal National Park on Jan 20. PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY - Holidaymakers trapped by a bushfire had to be rescued by boat from a national park south of Australia's largest city of Sydney as a heatwave struck the eastern seaboard on Saturday (Jan 20).

Firefighters in the state of New South Wales issued an emergency warning to visitors in the Royal National Park as the blaze threatened the main access road to a popular tourist spot called Wedding Cake Rock where people posted pictures of the billowing smoke to social media, reported Reuters.

"Beaches may offer safety," the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) said in a Facebook post as aircraft water-bombers attempted to slow the fire and emergency warnings were sent to the mobile phones of all people in the area.

"Firefighters, police, surf lifesavers and National Parks personnel are working with people at beaches in the Royal National Park to help manage their relocation as it's safe to do so - including by boat and road escort," The RFS wrote on Facebook.

The park was crowded with visitors and had closed shortly before noon because the carparks were full to capacity, local media outlet reported.

Fire crews warned visitors to leave "only if the path is clear" or if directed by emergency services, reported Sydney Morning Herald.

An RFS spokesman said there was no direct threat to properties, but residents in the Bundeena area on the outskirts of southern Sydney are being warned to enact their bushfire survival plans.

A number of bushfires sparked across the state of New South Wales on Saturday, with temperatures soaring above 39 degrees Celsius in some areas as a heatwave advanced across the eastern states where the Bureau of Meteorology issued fire weather warnings.

On Friday, the heat struck the south-eastern state of Victoria, causing discomfort at the Australian Open tennis tournament.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.