Bushfires on Australia’s Fraser Island poses threats to Tourist Areas

Australian fire crews are battling massive bushfires on Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island, which has been burning for six weeks, forcing tourists to flee the island off the northeast coast.

The fires have razed more than 76,000 hectares (187,800 acres), nearly half of the island, which is world heritage listed for its tropical rain forests and sand dunes.

Several guests were ferried off the island, also known by its indigenous name K’gari, on Tuesday as weather conditions worsened. More than 1 million liters of water and fire-retardant gel have been dropped on the fires since Saturday, the Queensland state fire department said.

“I think it’s frustrating for everybody, the fact that a campfire has started this fire. Having the impact that it has had, it started in a very, very remote part of the island… really difficult to access,” said Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Deputy Commissioner Mike Wassing.

Australia is baking through a major heatwave, which has been building across the country’s outback interior over the last week and now shifting to the northeast.

Though most conditions during the year have generally limited the threat from fires that devastated the country during the last fire season. Last summer’s bush fires razed more than 11 million hectares (37 million acres) of bushland, killing 33 people and billions of native animals. Total fire bans have been enforced in several parts of the northeast amid the first major heatwave of Australia’s bushfire season, which usually runs from the late southern hemisphere spring through summer.

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