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Severe weather exacerbates fire at heritage-listed Australian island

Accra- Firefighters on Thursday continued to battle a blaze that has been burning for more than six weeks on Australia’s Fraser Island and has destroyed more than half of the world-heritage-listed national park.

The fire on the popular holiday island off Queensland’s coast – also known as K’gari – has grown in size and intensity this week due to heatwaves along the country’s east coast.

So far over 80,000 hectares of land have been burned – around 50 per cent of the island – and more than 1 million litres of water have been dumped on the blaze.

As of 1 pm Thursday (0300 GMT), the bush fire was burning in several locations with weather conditions continuing to « exacerbate fire and smoke conditions. »

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) said they are working in conjunction with the Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation to limit the spread of the fire and minimize environmental and cultural impacts.

Earlier, on the western side of the island, emergency services managed to successfully shift a fire front 2 kilometres away from the popular Kingfisher Bay Resort, which had been under significant threat.

Ground crews are being assisted by water bombers and heavy plant equipment to contain the blazes.

The eastern side of the fire is located approximately 4 kilometres to the north-west of the campsites at Happy Valley.

Tourists have been advised not to travel to the island and visitors already at campsites have been told to avoid travelling on inland tracks and roads.

State premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has called for a review into the Queensland emergency services’ response to the fire, which is believed to have been sparked by an illegal campfire on October 14.

« K’gari is beloved not just here but all around the world, which makes the sight of its burning so painful, » Palaszczuk told parliament Wednesday.

« It’s understandable those who love the island want to be assured that everything that could be done to protect it has and is being done. »

At 122 kilometres long, K’gari is the largest sand island in the world.

Fraser Island and its adjacent islands cover an area of 181,851 hectares.

It is home to tall rainforest growing on sand, and the protected Fraser Island dingoes.

A QPWS spokesperson said that the fire had mostly burned at a slow pace in inaccessible bushland and so far had not impacted the rainforest.

« The island’s closed forest communities, including tall rainforest with their more moist conditions, continue to inhibit the fire’s movement across the island, » the spokesperson said, as cited by national broadcaster ABC.