Australia: Hundreds saved from wildfires in Royal National Park

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Firefighters have rescued hundreds of hikers and tourists from Australia’s Royal National Park after wildfires ravaged the national park south of Sydney.

One out-of-control fire was still burning in the park on Sunday, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service said, adding that people still in the vicinity should stay informed about wildfire conditions.

More than 100 firefighters — with the help of water bombers and aircraft — responded to two blazes that have destroyed over 600 hectares of land in the 15,000-hectare park.

They extinguished a smaller fire on Saturday, but worked through the night to Sunday to contain the spread of the larger fire.

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Officials used boats to rescue hundreds of visitors from the park’s beaches and sent some 70,000 texts to mobile phones in the area alerting them of the hazard.

Over 1,000 visitors were reportedly in the park when the fires started. Many people posted pictures on social media of the smoke, which has since drifted over southern Sydney.

The Royal National Park is a popular tourist attraction in New South Wales. More than three million local visitors and thousands of foreign tourists visit the park every year.

The park will remain closed until Monday while officials investigate the cause of the blazes. Despite a heat-wave in the region, they suspect the fires were started deliberately.

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amp/jm (Reuters, dpa)