Australia braces for heatwave

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Australia is bracing for days of extremely hot conditions on Saturday as a heatwave advanced on its east coast.

The country’s capital city Canberra increased its own fire warning to severe and issued a total fire ban as temperatures rose to 38 degrees on Saturday.

Efforts to clear land surrounding the massive fire zones west and south of Sydney, the most populous city in Australia, continued at the weekend before a heatwave is expected to hit on Monday and Tuesday.

The fire danger is forecast to increase early next week as temperatures climb to 43 degrees in western Sydney, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

Some 70 bushfires were still raging in the state of New South Wales on Saturday – of which Sydney is the capital – with more than 30 out of control, the state’s Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

A total of 34,000 square kilometres – an area the size of Belgium – have burned in the state, with close to 1,000 homes lost and nine people dead, including two volunteer firefighters.