Australia bushfire spreads across popular Fraser Island

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image copyrightQueensland Fire and Emergency Services
image captionThe fire has shrouded Fraser Island in smoke

Firefighters in Australia are struggling to contain a massive bushfire on Fraser Island, one of the country's most popular tourist spots.

The fire has been raging through the Unesco World Heritage site off the east coast for six weeks, destroying large swathes of its unique forests.

Travel there was stopped on Friday and guests at the island's largest resort are being evacuated.

It comes as south-east Australia is experiencing a blistering heatwave.

On Fraser Island, just north of Brisbane off the eastern coast of the state of Queensland, there are fears that the high temperatures - forecast to reach up to 34C (93F) in the region in the coming days - will further fuel the blaze.

Firefighters are also being hindered by limited access to the bushfire on the island's remote north.

Authorities say the fire is burning on two fronts, with the island shrouded in smoke.

"The vegetation on Fraser Island is extremely dry and because it's so dry it's therefore very easy to ignite," James Haig, who is managing the response to the fire, told AFP news agency.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services said there were more than 30 fire crews tackling the blazes on Fraser Island, and that aircraft were dropping hundreds of thousands of litres of saltwater over the affected areas.

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"Smoke will affect visibility and air quality on K'gari (Fraser Island) and adjacent mainland areas over the coming days," the service said, adding that no properties had yet been damaged.

It earlier tweeted that the bushfire had burned through an area of about 74,000 hectares (286 sq m) with "erratic conditions" expected over the coming days.

At the weekend, the Rural Fire Service (RFS) warned of a "very high to severe fire danger forecast" in eastern and north-eastern parts of New South Wales.

Sydney, the state capital, reported its hottest November night on record on Saturday. The city recorded a minimum overnight temperature of 25.4C and then hit 40C during the daytime.

media captionBBC Weather's Susan Powell looks at the record breaking overnight temperatures in Sydney,

The RFS later reported 62 bush and grass fires.

It was the first weekend of significant bushfire activity since the end of last summer, which saw Australia's most intense bushfire season on record, though not its most deadly.

The bushfire season of 2019-20 saw fires sweep across 24 million hectares of land. The blazes affected every Australian state, destroyed over 3,000 homes, and killed or displaced nearly three billion animals. At least 33 people were killed.

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