Bushfires Near Australia’s Canberra Airport Force Nearby Suburbs to Evacuate

NTD Newsroom
By NTD Newsroom
January 23, 2020Australia
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Bushfires Near Australia’s Canberra Airport Force Nearby Suburbs to Evacuate
A bushfire burns in Canberra, Australia, Jan. 23, 2020. (Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Parts of Australia’s capital, Canberra, were briefly evacuated on Wednesday after bushfires flared up in nearby suburbs.

The fire broke out near the Canberra Airport in the Pialligo Redwood Forest around 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday. About 35 minutes later, residents in Pialligo, Brindabella Park, Beard, Oaks Estate, and other nearby areas were told to “activate their bushfire survival plans” and roads were closed off, according to Canberra Times. By about 5:20 p.m., the fire had crossed the Molongo River and residents in Beard and Oaks Estate were told to immediately evacuate.

“Properties are under threat—leave now if you are able to,” an alert said.

By 5:40 p.m., about an hour and a half after the fire broke out, residents were told it was too late to evacuate and to seek shelter instead. The fire was under control by 7:15 that evening, the newspaper reported.

No injuries were reported and no homes were damaged, but the fire burned about 370 acres by 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. Oaks Estate Road remained closed on Thursday as firefighters continue to attempt to control the fire, which Emergency Services Agency commissioner Georgeina Whelan told ABC radio could take several days.

Canberra
Fire crews work to contain a fire at the industrial suburb of Beard in Canberra, Australia, on Jan. 23, 2020. (Rohan Thomson/Getty Images)

Despite the smoke, flight traffic to and from Canberra Airport stayed unaffected.

“Please be advised. No flights have been affected. Please allow additional time to get to the airport and keep an eye on @ACTPol_Traffic for traffic updates,” Canberra Airport said in a statement on Twitter.

Wildfires in Australia have killed 29 people, destroyed more than 2,500 homes, and razed 27 million acres of wilderness—an area one-third the size of Germany—since September 2019.

In recent weeks, Canberra and the cities of Sydney and Melbourne experienced air quality rated among the worst in the world under thick clouds of bushfire smoke. The air in Sydney is expected to again reach hazardous pollution levels on Thursday as smoke drifts over the city, the New South Wales state government said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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