Australia bushfires ravaging the state of New South Wales have expanded to a size equalling Belgium as firefighters continue to battle the blaze surrounding capital Sydney with a ring of fire. Horrifying video taken in the Blue Mountains town of Lithgow shows one resident approaching the raging fire devastating his back garden with a hose in an attempt to slow down the inferno roaring down the range. Over 20,000 residents are believed to be in the path of the “mega-fire” and locals have reported strong winds have been helping the fire expand from one house to the next with uncontrollable speed.
At least three million hectares of land have been lost to the fire across the eastern Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales.
Nine people have died during the blaze, including two volunteers of the Rural Fire Service whose fire engine rolled off the road after a tree felled by the fire hit them as they travelled in convoy to tackle the inferno.
Three other firefighters were treated for burns because of the blistering 44C heatwave that so far is believed to have burned over 800 homes.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was forced to return to the country from a family holiday in Hawaii amid popular backlash as thousands of Sydney residents chocked on toxic smoke.
In a statement issued on Saturday, Mr Morrison said: “I deeply regret any offence caused to any Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time.
“I have been receiving regular updates on the bushfires disaster as well as the status of the search for and treatment of the victims of the White Island tragedy.”
Five Australia residents died earlier this month during the unexpected eruption of the White Island volcano off New Zeland’s Northern Island.
Rural Service firefighter Brian Williams told the Sydney Morning Herald the fire has become so widespread it is now impossible to control.
Mr Williams said: “It’s such an enormously big fire, it’s beyond human ability to control.
“We’re all exhausted, it’s becoming a drain. “
The drained-out firefighter continued: “You come home at night, your lungs are burning, your eyes are sore. You’re carrying an enormous amount of smoke inside.”
Mr Williams warned the severe heatwave expected to continue into the coming days would stretch the service’s resources further: “It’s a very dangerous mix.”
The smoke billowing up from the blaze had Sydney’s air quality 22 times worse than the clear air standard.
The city, home to around five million residents, saw intense smoke which prompted evacuations and saw an increase in hospital admissions.
The mega-fires to Sydney’s north, west and south, prompted calls for a public health emergency to be declared.