Sydney Marathon runners hospitalized as Australia swelters in unusual spring heat wave

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A sweltering heat wave in Australia took its toll on runners in the Sydney Marathon on Sunday, with 26 people taken to the hospital and about 40 treated for heat exhaustion by emergency services.

Large parts of Australia’s southeast, including Sydney, are experiencing a spring heat wave, the national weather bureau said, with temperatures Monday expected to peak at up to 16 degrees Celsius (60 Fahrenheit) above the September average.

The rising heat wave has been building in the country’s outback interior over the weekend and is likely to last until Wednesday across the states of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.

The Bureau of Meteorology said it expected several early spring records to be broken over the next few days, calling the heat “very uncommon for September.”

“A reprieve from the heat is not expected until Wednesday onwards, as a stronger cold front crosses the southeastern states,” the weather bureau said in a Facebook post on Sunday.

Temperatures in Sydney’s west are expected to hit 36 degrees Celsius (96.8 Fahrenheit) on Monday before dropping to about 22 degrees Celsius (71 Fahrenheit) on Thursday, the weather bureau forecasts showed.

The heat wave has also elevated the risks of fires, with several regions given “high” fire danger ratings, and authorities urging residents to prepare for bushfires. About 50 grass or bushfires are burning across New South Wales but all have been brought under control.

Australia is bracing for a hotter southern hemisphere spring and summer this year after the possibility of an El Niño strengthened, and the weather forecaster said the weather event could likely develop between September and November.

El Niño can prompt extreme weather events from wildfires to cyclones and droughts in Australia, with authorities already warning of heightened bushfire risks this summer.

A thick smoke haze shrouded Sydney for several days last week as firefighters carried out hazard reduction burns to prepare for the looming bushfire season.

Australia’s hot spring follows a winter with temperatures well above average. Scientists warn that extreme weather events like heat waves are only going to become more common and more intense unless the world stops burning planet-heating fossil fuels.

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