Australian PM calls up reservists as fire threats escalate

(AP) - Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called up about 3,000 reservists as the threat of wildfires has escalated in at least three states.

Firefighters drag a hose to battle a fire near Bendalong, Australia, Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. Navy ships plucked hundreds of people from beaches and tens of thousands were urged to flee before hot, windy weather worsens Australia's devastating wildfires. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

He says 23 deaths have been confirmed so far this summer, including two on Saturday, and “we are facing another extremely difficult next 24 hours.”

Morrison also confirmed his scheduled visits to India and Japan later this month have been postponed.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian says her state was facing “another terrible day” and called on people in areas threatened by the fires to leave while they can.

Officials are warning the fires could move “frighteningly quick.”

Embers carried by the wind have the potential to spark new fires or enlarge existing blazes.

The worst wildfire season on record in Australia is likely to become even more devastating due to hot weather and strong winds that have prompted one of the largest evacuations in the country’s history.

More than 200 fires are burning, and warnings of extreme danger to come Saturday prompted mass evacuations. Traffic was gridlocked as people fled and firefighters escorted convoys of evacuees as fires threatened to close roads.

Navy ships were called in to pluck hundreds of people stranded on beaches.

The devastating early start to the summer wildfire season has made this Australia’s worst on record.

One official noted the “fire fatigue” but told people not to wait to flee until it was too late.

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