In Australia Wildfires, Scenes Of Smoke, Sparks And Chaos

Wildfires are a regular occurrence in Australia, but on New Year's Eve, residents of the state of New South Wales experienced blazes stronger and more destructive than they had in years. In several of the southeastern towns, smoke blocked out the sky, houses were destroyed, and thousands of tourists and locals were forced to flee to nearby beaches. Seven people have died so far, and several others are unaccounted for.

It's still unclear how long the fires will last or what the extent of the damage will be. The New South Wales Rural Fire Service, made up of 74,000 volunteers, predicts that conditions will remain unsafe through the weekend. But that doesn't mean things will clear up anytime soon; fire season in Australia's southeast, where it's currently summer, lasts for months. The most recent fires are coming after weeks of strong winds, record-breaking heat and years of drought in parts of the country.

Images from the fires capture sparks flying, ravaged buildings, smoke and glowing red as far as the eye can see. Here are some of the most striking scenes of the destruction so far.

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