Smoke from bushfires raging north of Sydney enveloped the Australian city on Thursday, while high temperatures and strong winds prompted authorities to issue warnings of severe fire danger across the eastern and southern regions of the country.
For the second time in three days, health officials advised schools to keep children inside and weather forecasters said the haze was unlikely to clear for several days as bushfires continue to burn north of Sydney.
Hundreds of bushfires have been burning for weeks along the eastern seaboard, but fresh outbreaks in 40-degree heat in southern Australia on Wednesday caused residents near Adelaide to evacuate their homes.
Electricity was turned off to 6,000 properties in the fire zone on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia to avoid the possibility of power lines sparking fire outbreaks.
The state of Victoria is bracing for potentially catastrophic fires on Thursday as temperatures are expected to soar above 40 degrees.
Melbourne is expecting its hottest November day on record at 39 degrees.
Six people have died and close to 600 homes have been destroyed since the bush fires broke out in October.
Police have taken legal action against 54 people since August for breaching bans on lighting fires.
Stuart Smith, Assistant Commissioner of New South Wales Police, said offenses ranged from lighting a backyard barbecue to people charged with suspicion of deliberately starting bushfires –
Bushfires are an offense that carries jail terms of up to 21 years. (dpa/NAN)