AUSTRALIA’S out of control bushfires have become so severe the military has been sent in, as the death tolls climbs to 17.
Military ships and aircrafts were deployed today to take water, food and fuel to towns where supplies were depleted and roads had been cut off.
Stranded residents and holidaymakers have been sleeping in their cars, with petrol stations and surf clubs transformed into evacuation areas.
Helicopters will also be used to fly in more firefighters as the roads have become inaccessible.
The catastrophic fires have taken the lives of seven people in just 24 hours, with five others remaining missing.
The current death toll stands at 17 – including three volunteer firefighters- with 1,200 homes destroyed, five-million hectares of land burned.
Authorities have warned the fatalities could rise further.
More than 2,500 firefighters have been working through New Year's Day in an effort to beat the flames, the smoke from which has drifted to Canberra and sparked health warnings.
Canberra, the capital of Australia, today recorded air quality more than 22 times the hazardous rating.
But the poor conditions did not stop at the border.
The thick smoke that has been suffocating New South Wales and Victoria has now drifted east to shroud New Zealand, with locals waking up to a red sun and eerie orange skies.
Met Service forecaster Cameron Coutts said the intensity of the Australian bushfires in the past few days had fuelled the New Zealand haze, and this was the fourth time this summer New Zealand had been affected by the neighbouring fires across the Tasman.
Mr Coutts said: “The last couple of days the fires in Australia have picked up in their intensity and produced a significant amount of smoke.”
“Most of it is at high levels once it reaches New Zealand. There is the odd report of people being able to smell smoke.”
Tourists holidaying in the town of Wanaka were the first to notice the haze, describing it as “apocalyptic”.
Australian Officials have warned that the worst is far from over, with harsher weather conditions to return by the weekend.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said: "Weather conditions on Saturday will be as bad as they were."
Victoria emergency commissioner Andrew Crisp added: "We have three months of hot weather to come. We do have a dynamic and a dangerous fire situation across the state."
The early and devastating start to Australia's summer wildfires has led authorities to rate this season the worst on record.
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