Wed, Sep 11, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Australians flee homes as police probe causes of fires

Reuters, SYDNEY

Firefighters battle a bushfire in Peregian Springs, Australia, on Monday.

Photo: Reuters

A 12-year-old boy started a bushfire and two teenage girls were questioned over another blaze in Queensland, Australia, police said yesterday as forest fires forced hundreds of people to flee from their homes.

This week, strong winds have fanned about 140 bushfires in northern Queensland and New South Wales (NSW), with flames ravaging thousands of hectares of land.

At least eight of the fires are suspicious, Queensland Police Commissioner Katrina Carroll told reporters, and police said they had questioned three children over blazes.

The 12-year-old boy was questioned after a group of teenagers were found on Monday in bushland near a skate park in Brisbane, Queensland’s capital.

The boy deliberately lit a fire that spread to a nearby storage facility, destroying a fence, two shipping containers and their contents, police said.

The boy was processed through the state’s juvenile legal system, which meant that he was released with a caution, a police spokeswoman said.

Police were questioning two 14-year-old girls over a fire in bushland near the Gold Coast, the spokeswoman said.

“Some of the fires have involved children playing and obviously the consequences are dire as a result of that and ... some of them have been purposeful and malicious,” Carroll said. “People can die. Buildings and residences are being destroyed.”

In Queensland alone, low humidity levels, high winds and dry vegetation have fueled 85 fires that have destroyed or damaged 84 houses across the state, fire service officials said.

There were more than 400 people in evacuation centers, Acting Queensland Premier Jackie Trad told reporters, adding that there were no casualties.

“Apart from Sunshine Coast, we are still seeing fires right throughout the state,” she said.

In NSW, firefighters were battling about 55 fires and five properties had been confirmed destroyed, the NSW Rural Fire Service said on Monday.

Bushfires have started earlier than normal in the southern hemisphere this spring.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said that winds would intensify throughout the day yesterday, but that fire threats should abate today.

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