Australia: Hundreds of bushfires forces residents to flee homes in Queensland

Residents of Queensland, Australia, have been given evacuation orders as the state's fire danger warning system was raised -- for the first time -- to "catastrophic", its highest level.

Strong winds, heatwave and dry vegetation have proved a powerful cocktail for more than 130 powerful bushfires threatening properties in Queensland, forcing thousands out their homes and over 30 schools closed.

The state's premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, described it as "uncharted waters" as a fast-moving bushfire nears the town of Gracemere.

"We have never, ever in this state been in this situation before," she told reporters late on Wednesday.

"We have not had a catastrophic level. This is uncharted waters."

Authorities have issued evacuation orders to people in Gracemere and its surrounding areas, with the nearby city of Rockhampton used as for shelter.

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