Firefighters refill their water from a water tanker in Pacific Drive in Deepwater National Park area of Queensland on November 28, 2018. - Thousands of people were being evacuated from their homes in northeast Australia as bush fires raged across Queensland state amid a scorching heatwave.

  • Australia's northeastern region of Queensland is experiencing unprecedented heat waves and record-breaking wildfires.
  • For the first time in history, fire danger in Queensland has been rated "catastrophic," the highest possible level on the Queensland government's warning scale.
  • "We have never, ever, in this state, been in this situation before," Queensland Fire and Emergency Services commissioner Katarina Carroll told the Associated Press. 
  • Extreme weather brings the devastating impact of human-caused climate change into focus.


Australia's northeastern Queensland region is experiencing unprecedented heat waves and record-breaking wildfires.

For the first time in history, the fire danger in Queensland has been rated "catastrophic," the highest possible level on the Queensland government's warning scale.

According to Axios, the threat level remains dire, as nearly 140 wildfires ripped through the area on Thursday.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services commissioner Katarina Carroll told AP on Wednesday that extreme weather was "uncharted waters" for the region.

"We have never, ever, in this state, been in this situation before," she said.

Northern areas of Queensland, like popular tourist spot Cairns, hit record temperatures upwards of 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) on Friday, for the third day in a row. A weather station at Cairns Racecourse hit 43.6 Celsius on both Monday and Tuesday, according to Nine News, and record-high temperatures were also recorded in Townsville, Innisfail, and Cooktown.

Warnings ranging from catastrophic to severe were issued along Australia's northern coast. High winds combined with hot and dry air have resulted in heightened fire warnings, though the conditions are unusual for the region which experiences its wet season in late November.

Queensland's Bureau of Meteorology said Friday afternoon that the heatwave would extend further west and south across the country over the weekend.

Authorities and scientists are warning that much of the Great Barrier Reef, the largest living ecosystem on earth, could be significantly damaged due to the region's extreme weather.

Thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes over the last few days, as fires continue to spread. Residents of Gracemere were told to evacuate on Wednesday, the Guardian reported, while communities near Mackay were alerted of the fire dangers on Thursday. Many people have sought shelter in nearby Rockhampton.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pledged federal assistance to deal with the devastation.

"The entire country is coming to your aid. The entire country is there to help in this time of great need," Morrison told reporters Wednesday evening.

The neighboring state of New South Wales also experienced several bushfires last week.

Extreme heat has become more frequent across the globe, shattering records and causing devastating fires across major cities. In July, Greece declared a state of emergency as massive fires devastated entire towns. California experienced its deadliest fire in history this month.

Extreme weather brings the devastating impact of human-led climate change into focus. According to the World Meteorological Organization, the 20 warmest years ever recorded were in the past 22 years. The four warmest have been the past four years.

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