More than 50 wildfires are ablaze in New South Wales (NSW) and ‘catastrophic’ conditions, the highest point on Australia’s fire danger scale, have been predicted for today. A seven-day state of emergency has been put into place, with the State Premier Gladys Berejiklian declaring that Tuesday will be ‘about protecting life, protecting property and ensuring everybody is as safe as possible’ (BBC News).
So far three people have died, around 600 schools have been closed and more than 150 houses have been destroyed.
The fires are quickly becoming the nation’s most dangerous bushfires and, according to the BBC, Tuesday’s predication has been compared to the Black Saturday wildfires which took place in 2009 in Victoria. 173 people lost their lives.
3,000 firefighters, deployed from NSW, surrounding states and New Zealand, are tackling the fires. The weather conditions are making the fires’ pathways unpredictable. Temperatures are reaching the high 30s (oC) and strong winds combined with dry vegetation are causing them to spread at an alarming rate. Despite the fires already spanning over 620 miles, it is believed that the worst is yet to come.
As well as NSW, Queensland has also declared a state of emergency as wildfires spread across the state. South and Western Australia are also battling fires.
The fires are a threat to life and anyone in a ‘risk area’ is being told to leave as soon as possible. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office are advising ‘if you’re in or near an affected area, stay safe and follow the advice of local authorities; in the event of emergency, always dial Triple Zero (000)’.
UK tourists in or near the area should follow all advice given and move away from the area if necessary. Those who have travel insurance should check their policy for Force Majeure cover. This cover will reimburse accommodation and transport costs for people who are required to move to a safer area. Cover levels and amounts will differ between policies and should be checked before a claim is submitted.
Those due to travel to the area or near to affected areas should check the status of their trip with their travel agent, tour operator or transport provider. Cancellation due to no longer wishing to travel to the area will not be covered by travel insurance, however those who have booked through a travel agent or tour operator may be entitled to a refund or amendment of their trip.
Cancellation via travel insurance is only likely to be covered if the policy offers Force Majeure cover or cancellation for any cause; provided the policy was purchased before the wildfires were announced.