Emergency declared for Australian outback town under threat from major bushfire

Authorities have declared an emergency situation for an Australian outback town as a major out-of-control bushfire continues to grow.

Nicole Manison, the acting Chief Minister of the Northern Territory (NT), Emergency Services Minister Kate Worden and emergency services leaders announced at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon that an emergency declaration has been issued for the town of Tennant Creek more than 900 kilometers (km) south of Darwin.

The declaration grants police and emergency services additional powers to seize assets and order evacuations if a nearby fire that has been burning for over a week crosses into the town of more than 3,000 people.

As of Tuesday, the fire had burned more than 10,000 square km of land in the NT’s Barkly Region, east of Tennant Creek in central Australia.

Joshua Fischer, the NT’s acting Chief Fire Officer (CFO), said at Tuesday’s press conference that authorities were confident they could stop the blaze from crossing the Gosse River and reaching Tennant Creek.

“It’s approximately 30 km from Tennant Creek at this time,” he said.

A combination of ground-based burning, mineral earth control line establishment and aerial bombing is all to ensure to prevent this fire from spreading to Tennant Creek, he added.

Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel were on Monday deployed to the region to aid volunteers, farmers and firefighting crews from the NT and the states of South Australia and New South Wales in constructing firebreaks around Tennant Creek.

Despite the emergency declaration, Manison urged residents of Tennant Creek to remain calm.

The message is to be calm and business as usual, she said. “Because of the unusual size of this firefront, we just want to be prepared for worst-case situations as well.”

“We would just like to have a few more tools in the toolbox to make sure we’re ready to act very swiftly if we need to.” ■

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