Parts of New South Wales, Australia’s most populated state, and an area of Western Australia, saw record high minimum temperatures of 33 Celsius (91 Fahrenheit) last week.
The maximum is expected to soar to more than 45C (113F) on Wednesday in parts of New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria.
“Avoid physical activity, stay well hydrated – it’s vital at this time,” said Richard Broome, director of environmental health for the New South Wales state government.
For the majority of Australia’s 25 million people who live on the coast, the summer typically means lazing on the beach. But the unusually high temperatures add to a sense of exhaustion for a farm economy already reeling from a year of drought.
“The weather is not good news for summer grain crops such as sorghum,” said Phin Ziebell, agribusiness economist, National Australia Bank. “Many east coast farmers are still reeling from the winter wheat crops, which suffered from recent drought.”
Australia, the world’s fourth-largest wheat exporter, saw production of the grain fall to a 10-year low this year when dry weather wilted crops. With unusually dry pasture, the danger of bushfires looms.
Wildfires burned in parts of Australia’s densely-populated southeast on Saturday, January 5, although weather officials expected falling temperatures to bring relief for Sydney by early afternoon.
One fire in eastern Victoria prompted fire authorities to issue a watch and act warning for residents in 14 different towns. The fire near Rosedale, about 200 km east of Melbourne, burned more than 10,000 hectares and sudden wind changes on Friday created risky conditions for roughly 40 firefighters, an emergency official said.
“They found themselves in a very serious situation and they were shaken,” Andrew Crisp, the state’s emergency management commissioner, told reporters on Saturday.
In the southern island state of Tasmania, a bushfire burned through 15,000 hectares of southwestern wilderness. Both Victoria and Tasmania had sweltered through above average temperatures on Friday, with Melbourne recording a near-record 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 F) and Hobart reaching 40 C (104 F).