Killer fire fears in Australia as 'catastrophic' temperatures hit 54C

Killer fire fears in Australia as 'catastrophic' temperatures set to hit 54CThe Holmes family shelter from a wildfire in Tasmania. AP Photo/Tim Holmes

Australia faced one of its deadliest-ever fire days in history on Tuesday when firefighters battled scores of wildfires across the southeast.

National parks were evacuated and residents were warned of blistering temperatures and high winds leading to 'catastrophic' fire conditions. Temperatures in some parts reportedly hit 54C.

The Daily Telegraph reports that thousands of firefighters were on standby across New South Wales, where authorities said wildfire conditions were at the most severe rating available.

According to the Daily Mirror, New South Wales fire chief Wayne Fitzsimmons said: 'We're shaping up for one of the worst ever fire danger days.

Killer fire fears in Australia as 'catastrophic' temperatures set to hit 54CA firefighter battles a fire in New South Wales. PA

'You don't get conditions worse than this.'

In Tasmania, 100 people were missing after fleeing blaze-hit homes and one family were pictured sheltering under a jetty as a wildfire raged nearby at Dunalley. The Holmes family (pictured, top) credited God for their survival from the fire that destroyed around 90 homes.

On mainland Australia, 140 fires in New South Wales were being battled by firefighters, with 40 out of control.

There are fears conditions will prove as deadly as the fires of Black Saturday in Victoria in 2009, which killed 173 people.

Killer fire fears in Australia as 'catastrophic' temperatures set to hit 54CRemains of a home in Dunalley, Tasmania. Getty

Tourists at Bondi Beach in Sydney cooled off in the sea and at sunset, temperatures reached 32C.

Dean Fitzgerald, 27, from Nottinghamshire, told the Daily Mirror: 'It's absolutely scorching but at least the sea is cold.'

In the city's zoo, animals had to be hosed down to keep them cool and ambulance crews were at full stretch as tourists collapsed in the heat at sites such as the Sydney Opera House.

On Wednesday, Sky News reported that new cooler weather has brought some relief, but highs of 50C are forecast for the weekend and more than 100 bushfires are still raging across southeast Australia.

Watch a video report from CNN below:

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