Heatwave fans autumn fires in Australia’s south

Heatwave fansautumn fires in Australia’s south

14 March 2008

published by www.reuters.com

Australia — A record heatwave has hit Australia’s southern states, fanned byscorching winds blowing south from the country’s northern desert outback, twoweeks after the end of a mild and damp summer.

The hot autumn weather sparked a series of small bushfires in the SouthAustralia state, where temperatures topped 40 degrees Celsius (104 degreesFahrenheit) on Friday, the 12th straight day of temperatures above 35 degrees.

The hot spell in the state capital of Adelaide is the longest recorded in anAustralian capital city, and prompted authorities to close all parks and ordertrains to slow down due to fears rail lines could buckle in the extreme heat.

More than 200 firefighters spent Friday battling a series of bushfires aroundAdelaide, including a major blaze south of the city which destroyed one home andcharred 150 hectares (370 acres) of grasslands.

Nine firefighters were injured. Volunteer firefighters Peter Bishop said he hada lucky escape after his truck was caught in the flames.

“Parts of the front of the truck were melted,” he told AustralianBroadcasting Corp. radio. “I knew that we had to get out of the smoke, wedrove out into a clear spot,” he said, adding the crew were rescued byhelicopter a short time later.

In the southern Victoria state, temperatures climbed to 39 degrees Celsius (102Fahrenheit), firefighters were put on alert across the state, and a ban placedon outdoor fires.

The Bureau of Meteorology expects the hot spell to remain for several more daysbefore a return to more normal Autumn conditions.

Most of Australia, the world’s driest inhabited continent, has been in droughtfor seven years, with most cities imposing tough restrictions on water use,banning the use of garden sprinklers and limiting times for hand wateringgardens.

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