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In Australia Wildfires, Scenes Of Smoke, Sparks And Chaos

Firefighters struggle Tuesday against the strong wind in an effort to secure nearby houses from bush fires near the town of Nowra in the Australian state of New South Wales.

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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The remains of burned-out buildings are seen along Main Street in the New South Wales town of Cobargo on New Year's Eve after bush fires ravaged the town. Thousands of tourists and locals were forced to flee to beaches in fire-ravaged southeast Australia.
Sean Davey / AFP via Getty Images
The remains of burned-out buildings are seen along Main Street in the New South Wales town of Cobargo on New Year's Eve after bush fires ravaged the town. Thousands of tourists and locals were forced to flee to beaches in fire-ravaged southeast Australia.

Firefighters hose down the area as they battle bush fires around Nowra in the Australian state of New South Wales on Tuesday.
Saeed Khan / AFP via Getty Images
Firefighters hose down the area as they battle bush fires around Nowra in the Australian state of New South Wales on Tuesday.

A firefighter walks past burning trees near Nowra, New South Wales.
Saeed Khan / AFP via Getty Images
A firefighter walks past burning trees near Nowra, New South Wales.

A house and van were destroyed by fire in Bilpin, west of Sydney.
Peter Parks / AFP via Getty Images
A house and van were destroyed by fire in Bilpin, west of Sydney.

Firefighters try to protect homes around Charmhaven, New South Wales. Wildfires burning across Australia's two most-populous states on Tuesday trapped residents of a seaside town in apocalyptic conditions, destroyed many properties and caused fatalities.
New South Wales Rural Fire Service / AP
Firefighters try to protect homes around Charmhaven, New South Wales. Wildfires burning across Australia's two most-populous states on Tuesday trapped residents of a seaside town in apocalyptic conditions, destroyed many properties and caused fatalities.

Amy and Ben Spencer sit at the showgrounds in the southern New South Wales town of Bega, where they are camping after they had to evacuate.
Sean Davey / AFP via Getty Images
Amy and Ben Spencer sit at the showgrounds in the southern New South Wales town of Bega, where they are camping after they had to evacuate.

A fire burns from back-burning as firefighters prepare ahead of a fire front in the New South Wales town of Jerrawangala on New Year's Day. A major operation to reach thousands of people stranded in fire-ravaged seaside towns was under way in Australia.
Peter Parks / AFP via Getty Images
A fire burns from back-burning as firefighters prepare ahead of a fire front in the New South Wales town of Jerrawangala on New Year's Day. A major operation to reach thousands of people stranded in fire-ravaged seaside towns was under way in Australia.

Firefighters hose down trees on Tuesday as they battle bush fires around the town of Nowra in the Australian state of New South Wales.
Saeed Khan / AFP via Getty Images
Firefighters hose down trees on Tuesday as they battle bush fires around the town of Nowra in the Australian state of New South Wales.

A horse moves away from a fire at a residential property near Nowra on New Year's Eve.
Saeed Khan / AFP via Getty Images
A horse moves away from a fire at a residential property near Nowra on New Year's Eve.

The remains of burned-out buildings are seen along Main Street in the New South Wales town of Cobargo on New Year's Eve.
Sean Davey / AFP via Getty Images
The remains of burned-out buildings are seen along Main Street in the New South Wales town of Cobargo on New Year's Eve.

In this Dec. 21 photo, a New South Wales Rural Fire Service crew fights the Gospers Mountain Fire at a property in Bilpin.
Dan Himbrechts / AP
In this Dec. 21 photo, a New South Wales Rural Fire Service crew fights the Gospers Mountain Fire at a property in Bilpin.

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