Government officials called for Australian military support and assistance from U.S. and Canadian fire crews as authorities confirmed two people had died overnight, taking to 11 the total deaths in wildfires since the beginning of October.
The huge bushfires have destroyed more than 4 million hectares (10 million acres), with new blazes sparked into life almost daily by extremely hot and windy conditions in bushland left tinder dry after a three-year drought.
Fueled by searing temperatures and high winds, more than 200 fires are now burning across the southeastern states of New South Wales and Victoria, threatening several towns and snapping their power, mobile and internet links.
“This is absolutely one of the worst fire seasons we’ve seen,” Shane Fitzsimmons, commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service, told a briefing in Sydney.
“It’s going to be a very long, difficult dangerous night still ahead. It’s going to be another difficult day again tomorrow.”
Authorities said the main firefront was moving up the coast and warned those in its path to seek shelter close to the beach.