Homes hit by Australia bush fires

Homes hit by Australia bush fires

12 December 2006

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Australia –Thousands of firefighters in four states in Australia aretackling bushfires which have destroyed homes and thousands of acres of land.

The worst blazes are centred on the southern island of Tasmania and inVictoria, where one fire front now stretches for some 250km (155 miles).

Towns are at risk in Tasmania, where at least 20 homes have now beendestroyed.

Fires are also burning in New South Wales and in Western Australia.

Bush fires are common in Australia’s summer, but firefighters say along-standing drought has made a dangerous time of year even more hazardous.

Few injuries have so far been reported, but officials warn that the dangerremains critical.

Rising temperatures

The Tasmanian town of Scamander has been worst hit, with some 23 homesdestroyed.

“You could hear houses exploding and trees going down. You could see theflames roaring up over the hill,” Scamander resident, Sue Brown, told localmedia.

Tasmanian Fire Service spokesman Danny Reid said that more than 100firefighters were battling the blazes, but were struggling against 120kph(74mph) wind gusts.

A change in the wind direction means the fire is now bearing down on thesmall town of St Marys.

Many of the town’s 600 residents were reported to have decided to stay andfight the fire.

Meanwhile, firefighters in Victoria continue to try to contain a series ofwildfires that have already destroyed 250,000 hectares (617,750 acres) of bush.

The blaze claimed a popular ski lodge at the Mt Buffalo resort on Tuesday.

Two of the largest fires are now believed to have linked to form a 250kmfront.

Cooler weather has brought some relief for the 2,000 firefighters, who havebeen using bulldozers and water-bombing aircraft to try to build containmentlines around the blazes.

But forecasters warn that temperatures will rise again later in the week.

The fires in south-eastern Australia have now blackened an area the size ofLuxembourg, officials say.

Firefighters in New South Wales are struggling to contain smaller outbreaksnear Sydney, while crews in Western Australia have been fighting a blaze thatthreatened homes near Perth.

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