Tue, Feb 11, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Australian fires raze homes in worst danger since 2009

WALL OF FIRE:Exactly five years after ‘Black Saturday’ killed 173 people, Victoria is alight again with bushfires, 12 of which authorities believe had been deliberately lit

AFP, MELBOURNE, Australia

More than 30 homes have been razed in the worst fire conditions Australia has seen since a 2009 inferno killed 173 people, with flames threatening the country’s second-largest city, officials said yesterday.

Hot, dry winds and soaring temperatures fanned scores of major blazes across the southeast on Sunday, with Victoria state sweltering through its worst fire-risk weather in five years.

“They were ferocious fires, they ran hard, they hit homes,” fire commissioner Craig Lapsley said.

The emergency came exactly five years after the so-called Black Saturday firestorm devastated the state, flattening whole towns in what was Australia’s deadliest natural disaster of the modern era.

Victoria State Premier Dennis Napthine said it had been the worst fire danger day since Black Saturday, with more than 30 homes confirmed lost so far across the state.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the government stood ready “to do all we reasonably can to ensure that people get the help they need in these difficult, difficult hours and days.”

Hundreds of people spent the night in evacuation shelters after being forced to flee their homes. A major open-cut coal mine was ablaze, with a nearby power station in the path of one fire.

Six blazes remained at emergency level yesterday, including a 40km front on the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia’s second-biggest city, with tens of thousands of hectares scorched.

At least 12 of Sunday’s fires were thought by Australian police to have been deliberately lit.

Residents described houses “exploding” into flames, with one woman saying it was like “the whole world was alight.”

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