Firefighters face an increase in fires fuelled by gusts and rising mercury levels
A water-bombing plane crashed in a mountainous area southwest of Sydney, killing three people, Australian authorities said Thursday as firefighters faced an upsurge in fires fuelled by gusts of wind and rising mercury.
Significant resources have been committed to tracing the aircraft, which was engaged in fighting a fire that ravaged nearly 94,000 hectares (940 km2) in southern New South Wales. “Contact was lost with a large water bomber aircraft in the Snowy Monaro area,” the New South Wales fire service said in a statement. ” Ground crews indicate that the plane may have crashed. Numerous helicopters have been dispatched to the area to conduct the search.
The fires also prompted authorities to order the closure of the capital’s airport on Thursday to reserve its runways for water-bombing planes. Commercial flights to and from Canberra were suspended around noon on Thursday as two fires south and west of the airport merged into an inferno threatening three suburbs of the capital.