Fires and floods rage over country

Fires and floods rage over country

4 January 2008

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Australia — Australia’s summer of extreme weather continued yesterday with bushfires destroying property in Western Australia and Victoria while parts of Queensland and NSW were preparing for flash floods.

On Perth’s eastern suburban fringe, residents last night fled their homes after a bushfire destroyed one property and severely damaged another.

Thirty homes remained under threat last night as firefighters battled the blaze amid warnings of “the potential for lives and/or property to be atrisk”.

Residents were told by fire authorities to evacuate their homes or prepare to defend them as the fire passed through, saying they should close doors and windows, turn off air-conditioners and check for spotfires.

A 19-year-old man from Perth’s northeastern suburbs, Anthony Peter Gartner, was yesterday charged with four counts of wilfully lighting fires in Marangaroo. He was allegedly caught after a member of the public called 000 at 1.45pm yesterday to report a bushfire.

Victoria was also bedevilled by bushfires yesterday, with firefighters racing to control three blazes ahead of a fresh heatwave arriving today with the possibility of further lightning strikes.

Eight fires were burning yesterday in the state’s far east but three were causing particular concern — two near Buchan and one north of Orbost. Fire authorities lowered crews from helicopters to tackle the edges of one of the blazes, a 20ha fire at Lightning Track near the Snowy River National Park.

But on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and in northern NSW, residents were preparing for flash floods last night as the low that has brought rain to the area over the past few days intensified.

But there is an upside to the rain across southeast Queensland, with the levels in the three dams that service the region rising. Authorities expect further top-ups over the next few days. The levels of the three dams rose by 0.4 per cent to 20.64 per cent yesterday morning, but the weather bureau predicts additional falls of 100mm over Brisbane and 50-60mm over the dam catchment areas today.

A spokesman for South East Queensland Water said the ground was saturated and so most of the rain that falls in the catchment area will run off into the dams.

Residents in the eastern Gulf of Carpentaria and the Torres Strait were also warned of abnormally high tides, large waves and strong northwesterly monsoon winds over the next 24 hours as a low pressure system intensifies and may become a cyclone today.

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