Australia -
Heyfield residents brace for bushfire. Residents in the Victorian town of Heyfield are facing a renewed threat from the massive Gippsland blaze.
Gippsland bushfire crisis worsens as northerly winds strengthen - A large bushfire in Victoria's high country is expected to hit Harrietville and Hotham Heights within the next 24 hours.
Meanwhile the Gippsland fire crisis has worsened, with strong northerly winds whipping up flames earlier than predicted. The CFA said there was “strong pressure” on its Gippsland containment lines with some busting this afternoon. In the high country fire authorities have warned residents who do not plan to stay and defend their homes that they should evacuate the area by 6pm.
The out-of-control bushfire, which is travelling in a south-easterly direction, has burnt out 1700ha of Victoria’s alpine region since a lightning strike sparked the blaze on Monday. Meanwhile, emergency authorities have warned a wind change could mean the southern edge of the Aberfeldy-Donnellys fire will breach control lines tomorrow. Authorities say that north-northwest winds are expected to increase to up to 25km/h from 10pm tonight. From midnight, winds speeds are expected to climb to 35km an hour and continuously overnight to 6am.
After this, constant 55km/h north-north west winds are predicted until a south-west change about 3pm tomorrow. The worst of the Gippsland fires were to hit at 5am tomorrow but it could kick off any time from 11pm last night. “It’s not the forecast we want but we can’t pick the forecast. We will have a difficult situation to deal with through the night. It’s more than a sleeping giant, it’s become active.”
Throughout the night strong winds of up to 55km/h are set to wreak havoc across Gippsland. Smoky haze and smell invaded Melbourne's CBD as firefighters battled to contain major blazes in the state's east and alpine regions. The CFA has warned the smoke will linger around much of the state today with little wind forecast, potentially causing health problems for many Victorians.
Victorians are bracing for a another day of extreme fire danger - “We want to reassure people that the smoke haze they are seeing could well be from the two large fires we are currently fighting as they are both throwing up a large amount of smoke and will continue to do so for a while to come. That said, it’s important for people to monitor their local conditions and if they see flame or a smoke column please report it immediately.” A State Control Centre spokeswoman said there had been a high number of false alarms.
Meanwhile the monster Gippsland fire, which began in Aberfeldy a week ago, has burnt more than 65,000ha, while the Harrietville fire has burnt more than 1300ha. “We know people will be travelling around the state this Australia Day long weekend and they need to be aware of fire conditions, including fire danger ratings and total fire bans, and know what they will do if there are fires." Extreme temperatures and strong winds could force overnight evacuations for some communities in the state's east. The CGippsland fire crisis is expected to be at its worst early tomorrow morning.
Conditions could come close to those experienced on Black Saturday, but should not reach the same scale. "On Black Saturday it was what we'd now categorise as a Code Red day. So out of 10 you would say it's a six or a seven out of 10 compared to what was Black Saturday." Communities near Maffra and Heyfield were urged to be aware of changing wind conditions as firefighters built containment lines around the Gippsland fire, 15km south of Licola.
Temperatures are forecast to soar to 36C in Melbourne today, 40C in Mildura, and 37C in Horsham. A total fire ban has been declared for the state's southwest. A southwest wind will push northeast at 5am tomorrow, giving firefighters the massive task of keeping people informed while they sleep and getting them out of their homes should the fire start ripping through communities. Water-bombing from the air would not be possible until daylight.
“We are dealing with a fire that is growing really quick and has some edge on it. We need the community to be ready.” The concern was the wind change that would deliver 50-80km/h gusts and it would travel up into the crowns of trees. It was not necessary for people to stay up all night, but they should be prepared and should tune into radio throughout the night and listen for any emergency warnings.
Towns on the southern edge would be worst affected. “History shows fires can zig-zag and we’ll do our best to hold it in." There was no need for people to evacuate yet. While there is no interstate help to assist with any emergency, there are 70 dozers, 12 aircraft and several hundred firefighters ready to battle the fire.
Calmer weather conditions last night helped firefighters bracing for today's extreme conditions. Stable wind and easing temperatures across the Harrietville township allowed emergency services to make solid progress on control lines to the east of the blaze.The chance to prep the control line would prove key before fire threats increased today and tomorrow. More than 100 firefighters - flanked by five bulldozers and five aircrafts including water-bombing helicopters - were deployed to the fire zone yesterday, bolstering crews already on the ground.
There has been no impact to properties yet but the fire continues to burn through steep and dense bushland, making it difficult to access. Despite the smoother conditions, a Watch and Act message remains for the townships of Harrietville, Hotham Heights and Falls Creek, while an Advice message applies to the townships of Germantown, Freeburgh, Mount Beauty, Smoko, Tawonga, Tawonga South, Wandiligong, Bright and Dinner Plain.
Jet-skiers on Lake Glenmaggie, in the state's east, were caught chasing waves caused by hovering water-bombing helicopters. Meanwhile, phone and internet services damaged in the Aberfeldy fires have been restore according to Telstra. (photos)

Massive melting of Andes glaciers - Glaciers in the tropical Andes have shrunk by 30-50% since the 1970s, according to a study. he glaciers, which provide fresh water for tens of millions in South America, are RETREATING AT THEIR FASTEST RATE IN THE PAST 300 YEARS.
The study included data on about half of all Andean glaciers and blamed the melting on an average temperature rise of 0.7C from 1950-1994. The authors report that glaciers are retreating everywhere in the tropical Andes, but the melting is more pronounced for small glaciers at low altitudes. Glaciers at altitudes below 5,400m have lost about 1.35m in ice thickness per year since the late 1970s, twice the rate of the larger, high-altitude glaciers.
"Because the maximum thickness of these small, low-altitude glaciers rarely exceeds 40 metres, with such an annual loss they will probably completely disappear within the coming decades." The researchers also say there was little change in the amount of rainfall in the region over the last few decades and so could not account for changes in glacier retreat.
Without changes in rainfall, the region could face water shortages in the future, the scientists say. The Santa River valley in Peru could be most affected; its hundreds of thousands of inhabitants rely heavily on glacier water for agriculture, domestic consumption, and hydropower. Large cities, such as La Paz in Bolivia, could also face problems. "Glaciers provide about 15% of the La Paz water supply throughout the year, increasing to about 27% during the dry season."
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has pointed to the importance of mountain glaciers as sensitive indicators of climate change. Globally, glaciers have been retreating since the early 20th Century, with a few exceptions. Himalayan glaciers are relatively poorly studied and there are suggestions that some are actually putting on mass. Some scientists say the Chacaltaya glacier in Bolivia, which used to be the world's highest ski run, has already nearly disappeared.



Recall of Annie's Homegrown Frozen Pizza due to the possible presence of fragments of flexible metal mesh caused by a faulty screen at a third-party flour mill. Affected products are distributed at grocery, mass and natural food stores throughout the United States.