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3 Australia Wildfires Officially Just Merged into a “Mega-Blaze”

Australian firefighters were battling hellish conditions through the night into early Saturday, as three massive bushfires merged to create the long-feared “mega-blaze” spanning more than 2,400 square miles — about half the size of Connecticut — and straddling the border of two federal states. The extent of the devastation won’t be known until daylight, the…

3 Australia Wildfires Officially Just Merged into a “Mega-Blaze”

Australian firefighters were battling hellish conditions through the night into early Saturday, as three massive bushfires merged to create the long-feared “mega-blaze” spanning more than 2,400 square miles — about half the size of Connecticut — and straddling the border of two federal states.

The extent of the devastation won’t be known until daylight, the premier of New South Wales, one of the affected states, warned.

The ferocious blaze — more than three times bigger than any fire ever recorded in California, according to NPR — was formed when three separate fires south of the Snowy Mountains connected into an enormous inferno that has unleashed treacherous wind and heat conditions.

The fires forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes across southeast Australia Friday as crisis caused by the vicious blazes continued to escalate. While seasonal fires are a regular occurrence in Australia, the current infernos, raging amid record-high temperatures and a three-year drought, have created a crisis unprecedented in scope, killing at least 26 people and more than a billion animals, and destroying nearly 3,000 houses.

READ: The Australian wildfires are an ecological catastrophe

Authorities issued emergency warnings in the area, following forecasts of a shift in wind overnight that fire chiefs worried could fan the fires unpredictably, potentially spreading them in different directions across parched bushland.

“We know it’s going to be a long and difficult night,” said New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

Three become one

The so-called mega-blaze formed late Friday when a “finger” of the East Ournie Creek blaze, which had merged with another fire earlier in the week, connected with the Dunns Road fire near the border between New South Wales and Victoria, Rural Fire Service spokesman Anthony Clark told the Sydney Morning Herald.

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“It provides a challenge for firefighters, as when they merge, it increases the size and opens up more uncontained perimeter,” he said.

The blaze is the second mega-fire of the ongoing crisis, following the Gospers Mountain “mega-fire”, which was ignited by a lightning strike in October and by December had merged with other fires to consume an area seven times the size of Singapore.

READ: Australians are fleeing to the beach to escape deadly wildfires

While the fires have mostly impacted Australia’s most populous states of New South Wales and Victoria, communities elsewhere in the country have also been hit. Authorities said Friday that almost half of Kangaroo Island, a popular tourist destination off South Australia renowned for its unique wildlife, had been destroyed, while homes were also threatened Friday by fires raging in Perth on Australia’s west coast.

“ScoMo has got to go”

The crisis drew tens of thousands of people into the streets in nine cities across the country Friday, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and for the government to do more to combat climate change.

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