AUSTRALIA continues to battle “catastrophic” fires as the severe heatwave and bushfire crisis continues.

A person in South Australia was confirmed as the latest casualty on Saturday and 15 homes were destroyed by a fire 25 miles from state capital Adelaide. It follows the deaths of two volunteer firefighters who were battling blazes in the country’s most populous state on Thursday.

The nation reported its hottest-ever day last Tuesday, but that record was broken again on Wednesday – topping an average maximum of 41.9C. The previous record of 40.3C was set in January 2013 in a heatwave which lasted for more than two weeks across many parts of the country.

The current crisis has lasted for several months with around 100 wildfires currently being tackled by the authorities in New South Wales (NSW).

A seven-day state of emergency was announced by Premier Gladys Berejiklian in light of forecasts of worsening conditions.

Around three million hectares of land has burnt nationwide during a torrid bushfire season, with nine people killed and more than 800 homes destroyed.

Catastrophic fire conditions have been declared in NSW as temperatures were forecast to reach 47C in western Sydney yesterday.

NSW Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said: “Catastrophic fire conditions are as bad as it gets.

“Given we have a landscape with so much active fire burning, you have a recipe for very serious concern and a very dangerous day.”

In South Australia, authorities said 23 firefighters and several police have also suffered, as more than 40,000 hectares of land burned.

“It is going to be a real scene of devastation, especially for those people in the Adelaide Hills who have been most affected,” South Australia Premier Steven Marshall said.

“We know that in addition to the buildings and vehicles lost there are very significant losses in terms of livestock, animals, crops and vineyards.”

The annual Australian fire season, which peaks during the Southern Hemisphere summer, started early after an unusually warm and dry winter.

The devastation has put pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has received criticism for going on a family holiday in Hawaii during the wildfires crisis. He apologised on Friday for “any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time”.

Morrison said he would cut short his holiday and was expected to return to Sydney yesterday, to visit the Rural Fire Service headquarters.

Debate has reignited on whether Morrison’s conservative government has taken enough action on climate change. Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal and liquefied natural gas.

Fatih Birol, International Energy Agency executive director, believed Australia had missed opportunities to mitigate the impact of coal.

“I find the Australian energy debate far too emotional, far too nervous and far too hot. It is hotter than the climate change itself,” he said.

Morrison, who critics have deemed a climate change sceptic, conceded earlier this month that “climate change along with many other factors” contributed to the wildfires.