Nov. 20 (UPI) -- Crews are dealing with dozens of new wildfires in Australia Wednesday and two states have issued alerts warning of potentially "catastrophic" consequences.
About 50 new fires have started in South Australia and utilities cut power to more than 12,000 customers as a safety precaution, officials said.
Temperatures north of 110 degrees Fahrenheit in South Australia Wednesday led officials to raise the fire danger warning to "catastrophic," the highest level. In Victoria, officials issued the equivalent of a "catastrophic" alert and warned residents to be ready to evacuate -- its first such alert in nearly a decade.
"Do not be there. If a fire occurs, you will not survive," local fire chief Steve Warrington told The Age. "If you live in those areas and a fire occurs, a fire will take your home. You need to make sure you are not there. ... We cannot control a fire if it starts. Move out tonight."
Utility SA Power Networks warned customers to be ready for an "extended outage."
Six people have died so far related to the fires, which have burned more than 2.5 million acres and razed more than 500 homes. In Sydney, thick smoke still blankets the city and has prompted calls to paramedics for breathing difficulties.
Australia is seeing a rash of wildfires earlier than usual this year, as it's still in the southern spring season and a three-year drought has aggravated fire conditions. So far in 2019, southern Australia has seen the driest first nine months on record and there's no significant rainfall in the forecast.