Sydney: About 100 bushfires were burning in eastern Australia on Sunday as a hospital was evacuated and 1,000 firefighters battled the blazes amid sweltering conditions.
As temperatures soared past 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), firefighters in central New South Wales state were fighting to keep the flames within containment lines around the townships of Rylstone and Kandos.
Firefighters fear a repeat of February's firestorm in southeastern Victoria state in which 173 people were killed as fires razed homes and trapped residents in the country's worst natural disaster of modern times.
Rylstone Hospital has been evacuated as a precaution, with patients with serious conditions transferred to hospitals in nearby towns.
"There is no danger to any patient at the moment. This is really a proactive step," health department spokeswoman Linda Lynott told ABC radio.
John Parnaby, incident controller at a fire control centre near Kandos and Rylstone, urged residents to leave the area.
"If people's properties are not prepared for the attack of fire or ember and people are not psychologically ready or physically capable to go through a situation where fire may impact upon their property, they really should be leaving to find a safer place," he said.
"Now would be the right time to go to a neighbouring town."
The weather bureau has issued a severe weather warning for damaging winds, a condition which could fan bushfires but also bring down trees and damage homes in areas west of Sydney.
"People are scared and I think the horrific winds at the moment make people even more on edge," Kandos resident Bonnie Farrell told the ABC.
"I've been a bush girl all my life... this is the first time I've felt threatened as an adult, where I'm the one who had to make the decisions."
Firefighters have another blaze, on the outskirts of Gunnedah in northern New South Wales, under control, officials said.
First Published: Sunday, November 22, 2009, 12:48