Australian authorities have issued emergency warnings to residents and tourists to get out of the way of massive bushfires raging on both the east and west coasts.
About 150 fires are still burning in New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland, feeding off tinder-dry conditions.
Authorities issued a “leave immediately” warning, the highest level, for several areas including Noosa, a beachside holiday destination 150 km (93 miles) north of Brisbane, the state capital of Queensland.
“We’ve got the worst of the summer – the worst of the season – still ahead of us as we head into summer,” said NSW Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.
According to the Insurance Council of Australia, insured losses from 450 fire-related claims in NSW and Queensland was estimated at A$50 million ($34.28 million) by Wednesday afternoon.
Bushfires are common in the continent’s hot, dry summers, but the ferocity and early arrival of the fires in the southern spring this year has caught many by surprise.
Since the blazes started on Friday, it has claimed three lives, burnt over 200 homes and destroyed about 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) of farmland and bush.
Experts have argued that the wildfires have been exacerbated by climate change.