Bushfires force cancellation of Rally of Australia

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – The Rally of Australia was canceled on Tuesday due to the threat of bushfires near the Coffs Harbour-based event in eastern New South Wales (NSW) state.

Organisers had planned to run the season-ending Nov. 14-17 event with a dramatically shorter route but ultimately decided the risks were too high.

“Considering the best interests and safety of everyone involved in the rally, and of course the wider community, it is not appropriate to conduct the rally,” Rally of Australia Event Chairman Andrew Papadopoulos said in a statement.

“Our thoughts are with the NSW community, especially the people who have lost loved ones, livelihoods and homes as a result of the fires in northern NSW, and we thank the rally community for your support and understanding.”

Hyundai, who hold an 18-point lead over defending champions Toyota, are expected to be awarded the manufacturer’s title.

Toyota’s Estonian driver Ott Tanak was already sure of the drivers’ championship.

Bushfires are a common and deadly threat in Australia’s hot, dry summers, but the current severe outbreak – across several parts of NSW and Queensland states, as well as Sydney – weeks before the summer peak, has caught many by surprise.

Australian officials warned soaring heat and high winds are already exceeding forecast “catastrophic” conditions on Tuesday as millions of people across the country’s east coast braced for the worst bushfires in at least a decade.

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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