One firefighter has died and tens of thousands of people have been told to evacuate because of wildfires raging across Australia on Monday.
The total number of firefighters killed across Australia is now 10, as high temperatures and winds drive the blazes across the dry landscape.
Fires are burning all over the country, including on the outskirts of Sydney, Melbourne and the capital, Canberra. In the worst-affected state, New South Wales, 97 fires were burning on Monday, 43 of which were not yet contained, according to the Associated Press.
Sydney’s famous New Year’s Eve fireworks will go ahead, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, despite a petition signed by more than 250,000 people calling for them to be scrapped in light of the fires.
“In the midst of the challenges that we face, subject to the safety considerations, I can think of no better time to express to the world just how optimistic and positive we are as a country,” Morrison said.
Temperatures near Sydney are expected to reach 44 degrees celcius (111.2 degrees Fahrenheit) in the coming days, the Guardian reported. Fire bans are in place across the state of New South Wales, but the fireworks have been granted an exemption.
Other cities, including Canberra, have canceled their New Year’s firework celebrations.
More than 1,000 homes have been destroyed since the blazes, known locally as bushfires, began in September. At least 2,000 firefighters are currently battling the fires.