For the first time since 1855, the city of Melbourne, the capital of Victoria state, registered temperatures higher than 109F (43C) for three consecutive days. Residents of Melbourne have turned to unique ways of beating the heat, from outdoor movies in a swimming pool to renting hotel rooms in order to take advantage of the air conditioning.
"These events are unprecedented," Victoria's energy and resources minister Peter Batchelor said on Saturday. "In some respects, they are not unlike a natural disaster, impacting on a community like a flood or tornado."
As the mercury in Australia rose, bushfires raged across the eastern part of the state, made worse by bone dry conditions and sweeping winds.
The heat was so oppressive that the massive increase in people using air conditioners caused a breakdown in Melbourne's electricity grid - leaving half a million homes without power.
On Friday night more than 200 people escaped the sweltering heat by attending a new open air cinema where an inflatable screen had been set up next to an outdoor swimming people - allowing viewers to cool off as they enjoyed the Will Smith film Hancock
Some benevolent companies offered to let their employees leave early, but in a rare exhibition of presenteeism in January, workers decided to linger in their air-conditioned offices rather than take their chances on the baking streets below.
The soaring heat took its toll on the elderly and infirm, with police and ambulance crews in Adelaide, where temperatures hit 109F (43C), reporting a sharp rise in the number of sudden deaths, with at least 19 people in the city believed to have died as a direct result of the heatwave.
Children were sent home from school and hotels reported a spike in bookings as hot home owners sought out fully-air-conditioned rooms.
But there is little respite in sight. Adelaide is preparing for its longest hot spell since 1908, with forecasters tipping temperatures above 107F (38C) for the next seven days.
Excerpt from: "Southern Australia endures worst heatwave for 150 years by Angus McDowall and Bonnie Malkin in Sydney. Read full article at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/4414203/Southern-Australia-endures-worst-heatwave-for-150-years.html