A ‘heat health alert’ has been issued in Victoria while the South Australian premier has urged citizens to take care of the vulnerable as furnace-like conditions prevail across the south of the continent.
The intense heat is even expected to stretch across Bass Strait, with normally chilly Hobart expecting a top of 34 degrees on Tuesday and 36 on Friday, however it doesn’t extend as far as Sydney which has a week of relatively mild weather.
It comes after intense heat contributed to bushfires in the Perth hills on the weekend which destroyed 44 homes and claimed the life of a 62-year-old man.
In Victoria, a similar heatwave in January 2009 contributed to 370 deaths and raised metropolitan ambulance callouts by about 50 per cent on the hottest days, according to the Department of Health.
The risk of bushfires is also expected to grow in coming days, with a combination of heat and wind making Friday a potentially disastrous day.
Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the heatwave marked the turning point of the Victorian summer.
“This is the time for people to revisit their (fire safety) plans. This is the time for people to start to think about their safety not only for this week but the remaining part of the summer,” he said.
“Leaving early before a fire starts is the safest option, without a doubt.”
The soaring temperature will bake remaining moisture out of bush and grasslands across Victoria.
“The finest fuels will be dried to a point where they are then available for any fire for the remaining part of the summer,” Mr Lapsley said.
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Health Minister David Davis called on the community to look out for the elderly, disabled or people who live alone.
“There’s a need to make sure we check on our neighbours,” he said.
He urged Victorians to keep up their fluids and stay cool during the hottest part of the day, between late morning and late afternoon.
“Spend as much time as you think is reasonable in cool or air-conditioned locations nearby, shopping centres, libraries or cinemas,” he said.
He said night-time temperatures also would be high.
South Australian emergency services on high alert
South Australia escaped relatively unscathed after the first day of an expected five-day heatwave with temperatures pushing into the 40s in Adelaide and many regional centres.
The conditions prompted a severe heat warning from the State Emergency Service and the Country Fire Service (CFS) is on high alert.
Conditions in some centres were hotter than the forecast highs.
CFS crews were deployed to a stubble fire near Stansbury, on Yorke Peninsula, which they quickly brought under control.
Among the hottest spots in SA on Monday were Port Augusta, in the mid-north, with 45C, while Tarcoola, in the far north, and Wudinna, on Eyre Peninsula, reached 44.2C. Roxby Downs topped 44C.
The coolest spot in SA was Stenhouse Bay, on the tip of Yorke Peninsula, where the mercury peaked at 27.8C.
In Adelaide the temperature reached 42.1C at 3.39pm (CDST), two degrees above the forecast with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting tops of 42C on Tuesday, 43C on Wednesday and Thursday and 40C on Friday before a cool change sweeps across the state.
Premier Jay Weatherill has urged all people to take care of those most vulnerable in the heat, including elderly relatives, friends and neighbours.
He says people without air-conditioning at home should consider heading to cooler public facilities such as cinemas, shopping centres and libraries.
The air-conditioned Adelaide Central Bus Station is to be open at all hours to provide respite.
Transport Department staff will distribute bottled water to public transport commuters while the extreme conditions persist.
Bushfire aftermath in WA
In Western Australia, about 500 people gathered for a community meeting in Swan View today, including Premier Colin Barnett, and were told there were 13 roadblocks and they would probably not be able to return home until Wednesday.
Around 100 people were housed in two emergency welfare centres in Swan View and Mundaring last night, while the fate of livestock and pets is unknown but residents are bracing for the worst.
Some firefighters have been treated for heat exhaustion and bee stings.
Mr Francis said the “catastrophic” fire was something West Australians always thought might happen and prayed would not, but he said it could have been a lot worse with as many as 450 homes having been at risk.
The WA government will donate $1 million to the Lord Mayor’s Distress Relief Fund to help victims.
It will also provide $3000 to those whose homes had been destroyed and $1000 for damaged houses.
Western Power says about 700 properties are without power – and will remain so for days – and more than 150 poles will need to be replaced.
The forecast in WA has eased a little with the Bureau predicting temperatures of under 30 degrees in Perth for most of this week, before a return to intense heat on Saturday and Sunday.