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Australia issues fresh bush fire warnings in Queensland, New South Wales

CANBERRA, Australia: Authorities have warned that massive bush fires raging in two states will continue to pose a threat, despite “catastrophic” conditions easing.

About 150 fires are still burning in New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland, feeding off tinder-dry conditions.

As many as 50 houses were destroyed or damaged in NSW, however, no lives were lost, officials said. At one point, fires broke out in the suburbs of Sydney.

On Wednesday, blazes caused fresh emergencies in Queensland.

“The conditions are of concern to us,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters.

The threat in NSW has been downgraded from catastrophic – the highest level – but officials urged residents to remain vigilant.

“We’ve got the worst of the summer – the worst of the season – still ahead of us as we head into summer,” said NSW Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.

Australia’s government has often avoided questions on whether climate change could have contributed to the fires, in a response that has drawn criticism.

More than 60 bush fires are burning in the state amid forecasts of high temperatures, volatile winds and dry lightning.

Residents in Noosa North Shore, on the popular Sunshine Coast, were among those to be issued emergency warnings on Wednesday.

A water-bombing helicopter crashed while fighting a fire at Pechey, west of Brisbane, but the pilot survived with only minor injuries.

Since Friday, three people have died and up to 200 homes have been razed.

Flame retardant had to be dropped in Sydney’s northern suburbs as some bush fires approached within 15 kilometres of the city centre.

A firefighting plane dropped pink fire retardant in the area between Macquarie University and the Sydney Adventist Hospital in the South Turramurra suburb.