Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has been harshly criticised for his handling of the emergency caused by huge bush fre over the past few weeks, has announced the deployment of 3 000 reserve troops to help the fire-fighting effort.
This comes after strong winds that have changed direction are hampering efforts by fire fighters to contain bushfires in Australia’s south-east.
Powerful gusts up to 128km/h threatened to spread huge fires raging in New South Wales (NSW), officials said.
In the neighbouring state of Victoria, army helicopters have been deployed to evacuate people trapped by the flames.
Since September, fires in Australia have killed at least 23 people.
More than 1 200 homes have been destroyed and millions of hectares of land scorched. Although much attention has centred on worst-hit NSW, every state and territory has been affected.
Some fire crews have been pulled out of the Snowy Mountains in the state of Victoria due to worsening conditions.
Skies reddened and darkened in areas of south-eastern Australia as wind gusts exacerbated the fires.
Temperatures surpassed 40C (104F) in some areas. In Penrith, west of Sydney, temperatures reached 48.9C. Some reports suggest it was for a time the hottest place on Earth.
Two naval ships rescued hundreds of people stranded on a beach after fire encircled the town of Mallacoota in Victoria.
The evacuees were taken to the port of Hastings and transferred by buses to relief centres.
Bushfires damaged two power substations in New South Wales, threatening electricity supply to the state including Australia’s largest city, Sydney.
In the Batemans Bay and Moruya region in NSW, thousands of people are without power as a result of fire damage.
Emergency warnings were issued throughout the day urging residents to leave certain areas, while some were told it was too late to evacuate. They were instructed to find shelter.