AustraliaAustralia braced for more bush fires

Australia braced for more bush fires

18 January 2007

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Australia — Bushfires killed one and threatened a major Australian alpineresort today as firefighters prepared to face soaring temperatures and highwinds expected to fan flames across two states.

Fire crews discovered a body in a gutted house in South Australia, which hasso far escaped the worst of the summer fire emergency touching five of thecountry’s six states.

In New South Wales a cool respite allowed authorities to complete evacuationsof about 700 people, including tourists, from the winter ski resort of Thredbo,150 kilometres south of Canberra.

Authorities were hoping the fire would sweep through the alpine ranges duringtoday’s relative calm and allow water-bombing aircraft to save the village aheadof three days of temperatures nudging 40 degrees.

In Victoria, where 50 days of fires have blackened an area larger thanLebanon, light rains brought respite to three hamlets under threat from showersof embers sparking flare-ups ahead of advancing fire fronts.

The Victorian fires destroyed eight homes on Tuesday and caused blackouts inAustralia’s second largest city, Melbourne.

Lightning strikes, blamed for most of the fires, lit another four blazesacross the state. The state’s ambulance service said it had treated 1,332firefighters for injuries since early December.

Australia faces extreme fire danger this summer because of severe drought.Bushfires, a regular feature of the Australian summer, have killed more than 250people over the past 40 years.

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