CANBERRA: Temperatures in southern Australia topped 49 degrees on Thursday, shattering previous records as sizzling citizens received free beer and heat-stressed bats fell from trees.
The Bureau of Meteorology reported temperatures of 49.5 Celsius (120 Fahrenheit) north of Adelaide, while inside the city temperatures reached 47.7 Celsius, breaking a record that had stood since 1939.
Adelaide residents are used to sweltering days during the southern hemisphere summer, but even they struggled with the oppressive temperatures.
More than 13 towns across South Australia have smashed their own heat records.
The state’s health authorities early Thursday reported that 44 people had received emergency treatment for heat-related illnesses in the past 24 hours.
“Remember to check on elderly friends, relatives and neighbours, and those who are unwell,” the state emergency services tweeted.
Health authorities were also forced to issue a public warning to avoid contact with hundreds of heat-stressed bats falling from trees in parkland areas.
Authorities in central Australia said they had to cull more than 50 feral horses after they found 90 dead or dying wild brumbies near a dried-up water hole.
Shocking images of dozens of dead horses strewn across the dry ground began to circulate on social media this week.
“With climate change well and truly upon us, we expect these emergencies to occur with increasing frequency and nobody is truly prepared and resourced to respond to them,” David Ross, director of the indigenous representative body the Central Land Council, said in a statement.
While thousands of people have flocked to beaches to cool off in the surf, hundreds have taken to shopping centres to stay out of the heat.
At Adelaide Zoo tortoises have been getting cool water wipedowns, rock wallabies have been given ice to lick and hyenas have taken refreshing dips.
But the temperatures are also testing municipal services, with SunCity buses forced to cut their services, leaving commuters searching for trams or trains to get home.
Emergency services are on the alert as more than 13 districts are under threat of possible bushfires.
Meanwhile, a total fire ban was issued further south in the island state of Tasmania, where authorities continued to battle blazes.
Parts of the southeastern state of Victoria were also sweltering through temperatures above 40 degrees.
As many as a million fish were discovered dead last week along the banks of a major river system in drought-battered eastern Australia, with thousands more found killed some 900 kilometres (560 miles) away in the north of New South Wales on Monday.
The soaring temperatures follow a heatwave last week that saw Australian towns among the hottest places on Earth.