Parts of Australia's east, including Sydney, are bracing for their hottest day in more than two years on Monday with temperatures forecast to hit around 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), raising the risk of dangerous bushfires.
Total fire bans are now in place for multiple regions across most of New South Wales, the home state of one-third of Australians, with authorities warning of high to extreme danger.
Some 34 fires are already burning across the state, four of which are yet to be contained, while 33 public schools, mostly in inland regions, have been closed ahead of the severe heat, officials said.
"If a fire does start, it's going to be burning under those difficult conditions ... (it's) harder for our firefighters to get around them, and fire can spread very quickly, particularly in grassland," Angela Burford, operational officer at the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
The hot and dry conditions are likely to persist until Wednesday, the Bureau of Meteorology said.
Australia's east coast has been dominated by the La Nina weather phenomenon - typically associated with increased rainfall - over the last two years, which brought record rains and widespread flooding. In 2022, Sydney recorded its highest annual rainfall since records began in 1858.
But the weather bureau last week said its climate models suggest La Nina was "likely near its end" and neutral conditions, which is neither La Nina or its opposite El Nino, were likely to prevail through the southern hemisphere autumn.