Thousands of koalas feared dead as massive Australian wildfires destroy habitat

From left Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison South Australia Premier Steven Marshall and the owner of a property destroyed by bush fire on the man's land yesterday. The unprecedented bush fires devastating swathes of Australia have already

Australia fires: Fears for Sydney's water supply as firefighters tackle blazes near vital dam

Australia is in the grip of another heatwave with temperatures forecast to soar this weekend, exacerbating deadly wildfires that have ravaged the nation for months.

Temperatures are expected to peak on Tuesday, with New Year's Eve forecasts of more than 40C across western Sydney and in regional NSW.

Australia's New South Wales state, the most populous, has borne the brunt of the fires. Nine people - including two firefighters - have been killed and more than 1,000 homes destroyed. Morrison cut short a pre-Christmas family holiday to Hawaii amid a public backlash against the unannounced trip.

A giant blaze north-west of Sydney, known as the Gospers Mountain fire, has destroyed more than 500,000ha - an area about seven times the size of Singapore.

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Another massive blaze, the Currowan fire, has played havoc with holidaymakers along the coast south of Sydney, threatening tourist towns and forcing authorities to intermittently close the main highway.

The fire stretches almost 100km from Nowra to the resort town of Batemans Bay and has burned about 220,000ha.

The states of Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia have also been hit, stretching the resources of fire services, which are mainly staffed by unpaid volunteers.

Morrison has previously said he had not received any requests from fire chiefs for volunteers to be paid but last week announced those who were also Commonwealth employees would receive an additional four weeks' leave to fight the fires.

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Thousands of koalas are feared to have died in the wildfires raging in parts of Australia, with officials saying they believe up to a third of the iconic marsupial population may have been lost.

"In recent days up to the cool change, the fires had been a potential threat to supply and assets, particularly in Warragamba and in the Blue Mountains", a spokesperson for the Australian state of New South Wales' water authority, WaterNSW, told Reuters.

Nearly a third of koalas in Australia's New South Wales region may have been killed in deadly bushfires, which have been burning out of control, the Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley said. "We will know more when the fires calm down and an adequate assessment can be made".

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