Coal mine, power station under threat from bushfire as Australia's east coast faces extreme heatwave

Tuesday, 2019-12-17 15:08:35
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Firefighters have been working to tackle the massive Gospers Mountain blaze in NSW.
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Fire authorities in Australia are locked in a desperate battle to save a coal mine and a power station on Tuesday (December 17), that have come under threat from a massive bushfire northwest of Sydney which local media dubbed the "mega-blaze."

Already burning through 400,000 hectares of vegetation at Gospers Mountain and the Wollemi National Park, there are now fears the wildfire could spread even further with temperatures in the area expected to reach 46 degrees Celsius in coming days as an extreme heatwave bears down on the nation's east coast.

"The heatwave that is coming across the country... add that to strong winds and you've got the worst possible circumstances," New South Wales (NSW) State Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told press.

Describing the next five days as the most dangerous the state has seen for "quite some time," Fitzsimmons warned residents in surrounding areas to stay vigilant.

"People need to make sure they take responsibility for their own safety," he said.

"The danger that is facing this community, both here in the Hawkesbury, and indeed the north of the state and the Wollondilly should never be underestimated."

With the bushfire roaring towards the Mount Piper Power Station, which generates around 10 percent of the state's electricity, fire crews worked tirelessly to protect the facility overnight.

Elsewhere, emergency personnel scrambled to avoid an environmental disaster as burning embers made there way into the Springvale coal mine.

If stockpiles of the commodity were to catch fire, environmental agency Greenpeace Australia Pacific warned it could take weeks to put out the toxic fumes which would pour over Sydney's skies.

According to Centennial Coal, however, the company has reassured the public its stockpiles of coal are well protected behind containment lines.

"A lot of crews were deployed near that power station just to make sure the fire did not get into the coal," RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said.

"We will have crews there today monitoring that condition just to make sure we do not have any problem fire starting."

Since the start of Australia's wildfire season, a total of six people have died and around 720 homes have been lost, along with approximately 1,600 other structures.