Australian crews search for firefight plane feared crashed

Officials in Australia are searching for a water tanker plane that is feared to have crashed while fighting wildfires on Thursday

SYDNEY —
Officials in Australia on Thursday searched for a water tanker plane feared to have crashed while fighting wildfires.

Rural Fire Service officials said helicopters were looking for the plane, which might have crashed in the Snowy Monaro region of New South Wales state.

There were few other initial details about the plane or the search. A news conference was scheduled later Thursday in Sydney.

Also Thursday, Canberra Airport closed because of nearby wildfires, and residents south of Australia’s capital were told to seek shelter.

The blaze started Wednesday but strong winds and high temperatures caused conditions in Canberra to deteriorate. A second fire near the airport that started on Thursday morning is at the “watch and act” level.

“Arrivals and departures are affected due to aviation firefighting operations,” the airport authority said in a tweet.

Another tweet from traffic police said “the fire is moving fast and there are multiple road closures in the area. Please avoid the area. Local road blocks in place.”

Residents in some Canberra suburbs were advised to seek shelter and others to leave immediately.

“The defense force is both assisting to a degree and looking to whether that needs to be reinforced,” Defense Minister Angus Campbell told reporters.

“I have people who are both involved as persons who need to be moved from areas and office buildings that are potentially in danger, and also those persons who are part of the (Operation) Bushfire Assist effort,” he said.