Thousands of people are fleeing their homes and helicopters are dropping supplies to towns at risk of wildfires as hot, windy conditions threaten already fire-ravaged southeastern Australian communities.
The danger is centered on Australia’s most populous states, including coastal towns that lost homes in earlier fires.
Fire officials say wildfires are holding within containment lines so far, but a strong shift in winds is predicted later that could cause a whole new area to face damage.
New South Wales fire official Shane Fitzimmons says, “A long afternoon to go, a long night still to go, for all our firefighters and those affected by the fires."
Evacuation orders were issued in some parts of Victoria. That state's premier urged residents to heed the order even if no new destruction was imminent, according to The Associated Press.
Temperatures in parts of the fire-threatened area reportedly reached 104 degrees Fahrenheit Friday in a region that's already extremely dry.
At least 26 people have died in the unprecedented fire crisis along with an estimated 1.25 billion animals. More than 2,000 homes have been destroyed in a damage area twice the size of Maryland.