Health warnings amid Australian heat wave

SIOBHAN DOWNES
Last updated 15:26 15/01/2014
frank
BRANDON MALONE / Reuters
Canadian tennis player Frank Dancevic cools off with ice packs.

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Australia is melting under a blistering heatwave, as temperatures climb to the mid-40s in the south-east.

Health warnings have been issued and emergency services are bracing for fire danger as the heatwave sweeps across the country.

Officials in the state of Victoria were preparing for the most extreme weather since the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009, which killed 173 people and destroyed thousands of homes. The heatwave that came before those fires was responsible for 374 deaths.

At the Australian Open in Melbourne, temperatures topped 42 degrees Celsius yesterday and were already at 38C at 10am today (noon NZT).

Tennis players and ball boys suffered from heat-stroke, China's Peng Shai vomited on court in the heat, and Canadian player Frank Dancevic hallucinated a cartoon character before collapsing.

‘‘I was dizzy from the middle of the first set and then I saw Snoopy and I thought, 'Wow Snoopy, that’s weird'", said Dancevic, 29. 

He called on organisers to postpone the tournament, saying the heat was dangerous. "I think it's inhumane … it's not fair to the players, to the fans, to the sport."

Temperatures were forecast to remain above 40C over the next few days.

Adelaide yesterday experienced its fourth hottest day since records began in 1888, as the mercury reached 45.1C. 

But it could get ever hotter still, as 46C is forecast for tomorrow. 

Although it was expected to cool off on Friday, the change would bring wind gusts and a severe fire risk. 

Lightning strikes had already sparked hundreds of fires across the South Australia state, and yesterday the Country Fire Service said it was receiving reports of fires at the rate of one a minute.

Meanwhile, in Western Australia, residents were recovering from a devastating bushfire that raged through the Perth Hills on Sunday, killing one person and destroying dozens of homes.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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