Thousands of Queenslanders were evacuated from their homes in northeastern Australia late Wednesday as bushfires raged across the state in the midst of a stormy wave of heat.
About 8,000 people were asked to leave the town of Gracemere, south of the central Rockhampton coast, as fast-moving fire threatening homes.
About 1,500 people fled to nature in the Deepwater area, which has destroyed at least four houses and burned tens of thousands of hectares of shrubs and farmland.
The third dangerous fire threatened Mount Larcom in the afternoon, causing further evacuations. One resident, Rhonda Anderson, drove 30 km to Gladstone as a wall of smoke that suffered from a small town, AAP messages.
The Meteorological Bureau declared in some central areas a "catastrophic" fire hazard – the highest possible level of risk, while firefighters are fighting over 140 fires across the state.
"It is a very stressful situation for families, I need you to be strong, I need you to listen to everyone, your family and our community are vital," warned Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to leave.
"So we have to reach out to members of the community who are fragile, older, disabled, and listen to the authorities, it will be much worse," she added.
Firefighters also fought fires in Baffle Creek, Beach and Oyster Creek, Eungella and Dalrymple Heights, where people were forced to evacuate from fires.
Most people did it on the road, but some had to be transported over Baffle Creek. Deputy Chief of Police Commissioner Bob Gee warned residents that the conditions were so dangerous that people could die if they refused to leave.
"People will burn to death, and their normal approach will probably not work if this situation develops in the way it is supposed to develop," he said. "This is different from the 5th class cyclone that goes through the door."
On Wednesday night temperatures were calmed down and the wind fell, but the authorities warned the state was still in tight heat and heavy fire conditions.
Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Katarina Carroll said the conditions in Central Queensland are still terrible.
"Obviously, though it could make it worse, we still have serious worries all night, so we're not."
Crews from South Australia are expected to arrive today, with more of Australia arriving later in the week.
"We are not out of the woods, there is a great fire risk all over the country," said Mrs. Palaszczuk, warning that the extreme heat wave would continue until Tuesday.
The worst conditions in central Queensland are so destructive that they have been compared to those who provoked the inferno that recently destroyed California.
The Weather Authority said Queensland has broken down temperatures, with Brisbane's state capital reaching 37.9 degrees Celsius.
At least 34 schools remain closed due to close fires today, and the authorities said the number of destroyed houses was likely in "single numbers", but it was too early to confirm.
"We will see that other fires occur very quickly, so it is the beginning," Mrs. Carroll warned of the evacuation.
"It is very difficult to get a sense of how long people have in the area because the winds are rising faster than expected – they are developing, but very, very quickly," she added.
Gladnose Butcher for Gladstone said ABC that the police had previously "arrested" several people who refused to leave the bushfire route in Baffle Creek, about 120 km south of Gladstone.
"You feel for them, but at the end of the day, the price of a small house or shelter compared to your life … at the end of the day, human life is the top priority."
Mr Butcher said that at least 12 people were known to be still in the area and added that some residents who refused to leave the evacuation zone were parents who also had children with them.
Resident Luana Royle from central Queensland Finch Hatton said ABC that the area was hit hard by a fire.
"Our fires around us this morning did not have to be seen in front of you 500 meters," she said.
"Everybody is all right, but two houses went, which is quite sad."
Australia is not alien to extreme weather, experiencing flash floods, sandstorms and even extreme drought in areas that are now flooded.
On Wednesday in New South Wales, three people were killed when Sydney was hit by storms and heavy rain.
The local meteorological office reported more than 106 millimeters of rain in several places within a few hours.
Flights were canceled, railway lines closed and motorists locked up on flooded roads because the moon rain fell there early Wednesday morning.
– with AAP