January 23, 2006

Authorities race to control Australian bushfires

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Firefighters in three Australian
states raced on Tuesday to control ferocious bushfires that
have left three people dead, destroyed homes and killed tens of
thousands of livestock before expected hot windy weather

Cooler conditions overnight allowed emergency services to
make some headway in their battle against the blazes, but
several massive bushfires in Victoria, Western Australia and
the island state of Tasmania were still burning out of control.

Bushfires across southern Australia have so far burned
through more than 200,000 hectares (half a million acres), an
area nearly three times the size of Singapore. Firefighters
said on Tuesday that blazes in South Australia state had been

Victorian Premier Steve Bracks said on Tuesday that the
crisis was not yet over, with temperatures forecast to soar
back above 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) by Thursday.

"I'm very nervous about the rest of the week," Bracks told
Australian radio.

In Victoria, where two people were killed when their car
was engulfed by fire on Sunday and a firefighter died when the
tanker he was traveling in rolled late on Monday, emergency
services worked overnight to save a small tourist town from the

Earlier this month several homes north of Sydney in New
South Wales state and in western Victoria were destroyed by

Australia is scarred by bushfires every summer and every
few years bushfires blaze into major cities which have fingers
of bushland weaving through suburbs.

In January 2004, the deadliest bushfires in 22 years killed
nine people and injured dozens in South Australia. The blazes
were the worst since Ash Wednesday bushfires claimed 75 lives
in South Australia and Victoria in 1983.

In 2003, bushfires destroyed a slice of Australia three
times the size of Britain, fueled by one of the worst droughts
in a century. Four people were killed and 530 homes destroyed
when fire swept through the capital, Canberra, that year.

In 2002 and 1994, bushfires destroyed scores of homes in