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Catastrophic conditions put southern states on high alert

CATASTROPHIC weather conditions, not experienced since some of Australia's worst natural disasters, had southern states on high alert on Tuesday.

In Western Australia, where 27 homes were lost in a wildfire in the Perth Hills this week, the threat had eased and a cool change was bringing relief.

But Adelaide was headed for its hottest day since the 1930s after being hit with five scorchers in a row - temperatures have hit well above 40 degrees since Saturday - with an expected top of 45.1degrees.

Melbourne and country Victoria was suffering through the kind of extreme conditions which fuelled the Black Saturday fires that claimed the lives of 374 people in 2009.

Along with the unbearable heat came a series of freakish storms which unleashed thousands of lightning strikes and sparked more than 250 fires across South Australia and Victoria on Tuesday night.

At least 20 fires were still burning on Wednesday and ten firefighters had been hospitalised with heat stroke.

Even Canberra was headed for 40 degrees.

Cool breezes kept the predicted temperatures in much of NSW below 35 degrees but the mercury rose to 37 in the central west.

Melbourne reached 41degrees on Wednesday and Sydney 30degrees.

The rare summer day brought higher temperatures to southern states compared with the top end where Darwin only reached 28 degrees.

Friday is expected to bring the harshest conditions to Victoria NSW, with temperatures of up to 42 degrees expected across both states.

Police have reminded parents about the potentially fatal consequences of leaving children in cars - an offence which carries a fine of up to $22,000.

A number of children had to be freed from cars in both states on Tuesday and Wednesday.

A Lakemba mother was expected to be charged on Wednesday after allegedly leaving her nine-month-old old baby boy in the back of her car overnight.

Police broke into the car after finding the baby distressed about 10pm.

The baby's 31-year-old mother told police she had being doing chores in a nearby unit and left her son in the car to sleep.

The baby was unharmed and returned to his mother's care.

What happens to vehicles on hot days - Supplied by NSW Police

On a hot day the temperature inside a parked car can rise to 30-40 degrees above the outside temperature - if it's a 30 degree day, the temperature inside a car can exceed 70 degreesThese high temperatures inside a closed vehicle can be reached within as few as 5 minutes. The temperature can peak within as few as 15 minutes.

The temperature inside a closed vehicle rises when the airflow decreases, making breathing inside the vehicle very difficult.

Having the window down slightly will only cause a small drop in temperature inside the car - there is no safe way to leave a child in an unattended vehicle.The temperature inside a closed vehicle will be slightly higher if the car is dark in colour and if the car has large amounts of glass.

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