Record-setting high temperatures combined with painfully dry conditions have sparked hundreds of brushfires across the entire Australian continent and Tasmania. Thankfully, no deaths have been reported in this latest round of wildfires, but hundreds of homes have been destroyed, thousands of people have been forced to evacuate, and entire herds of sheep and other livestock have been wiped out.
Temperatures have dropped slightly in the last 24 hours, helping firefighters bring many of the blazes under control, but the wildfires and the heat continue to be a danger. Tuesday was the hottest day in Australia's recorded history, with a nationwide average of 104° F (40C), breaking the record set... on Monday. A new individual temperature record of 129.2° F was also set in the nation's interior, forcing meteorologists to intensify their weather maps. Despite the "break" in the weather, the heat wave is expected to intensify again next week.
The southern island of Tasmania has been among the hardest hit areas, with at least 128 homes burned down since last week. One couple and their five young grandchildren (all under the age of 11) had to take refugee from the fires by diving into a lake and holding onto a dock for two hours, until they could escape by raft to another location. Grandfather Tim Holmes said, "We saw tornadoes of fire just coming across towards us and the next thing we knew everything was on fire." Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, has lost 500 square miles of forest since yesterday.