SYDNEY - Authorities on Monday asked residents of a coastal township in the world heritage listed K’gari (Fraser Island) to “leave immediately” after a massive bushfire burning there since mid-October was expected to reach the township early morning.
The blaze has already destroyed half the island, which is part of the Great Barrier Reef and famous for its tropical rainforest on sand dunes, and inland lakes.
“A large fire is travelling in a southeasterly direction towards Happy Valley township on Fraser Island. It is expected to impact Happy Valley township around 7am,” Queensland state Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) said in a statement issued Monday early morning.
“Conditions are now very dangerous and firefighters may soon be unable to prevent the fire advancing.”
Power, water, and mobile phone service may be lost and road conditions may become very dangerous over the next several hours, authorities said.
Anyone near the township in the world’s largest sand island, also known by its indigenous name K’gari, have been asked to move to the beaches or head south.
Brian Cox, state coordinator of QFES, said some residents have decided to stay and fight the fire.
“Some have taken that advice to leave, others have chosen to fight the fires for their own homes,” Cox told ABC News.
“The majority of those people are actually trained as volunteer firefighters or are very aware of those conditions. We have emergency responders in that area working very closely and we will make sure they are protected.”
An intense heatwave sweltered Australia’s southeast and northeast in recent days with temperatures reaching well above 40 degree Celsius in several places.
This has also raised the risk of bushfires with total fire bans enforced in several regions amid the first major heatwave of the fire season, which usually runs from late southern hemisphere spring through summer.
Last summer’s bush fires razed more than 11 million hectares (37 million acres) of bushland, killing 33 people and billions of native animals, a disaster that Prime Minister Scott Morrison called Australia’s “black summer”.
Carly Williams contributed to this report.