independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Australian wildfire fears eased

Firefighters are battling scores of wildfires in Australia (AP/NSW Rural Fire Service, James Morris)

The danger from scores of wildfires that have blazed for days across much of southern Australia has reduced after temperatures cooled from record highs.

Australia recorded its hottest day on record on Monday with a nationwide average of 40.33C, narrowly breaking a 1972 record of 40.17C

Amid the cool-down, the national capital, Canberra, dropped from a high of 36C on Tuesday to 28C, and Sydney dropped from 43C to 23C.

No deaths have been reported, although around 100 people have not been accounted for since last week when a fire destroyed around 90 homes in the Tasmanian town of Dunalley, east of the state capital of Hobart. Police spokeswoman Lisa Stingel said it is likely most of those people simply have not checked in with officials.

Thousands of cattle and sheep as well as wildlife are suspected to have been killed.

In Victoria state, north of Tasmania, a fire injured six people, destroyed four homes and caused the evacuation of the farming community of Carngham, country fire authority operations officer Ian Morley said.

Cooler conditions have brought relief to firefighters who will work through the day to build earth breaks to fully contain the fire ahead of warmer temperatures forecast for Friday, Mr Morley said.

"We have had very mild, cool conditions overnight which is a great help to the fire suppression effort," he said.

North of Victoria in New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, firefighters were battling 141 fires, including 31 that had not yet been contained.

The fires have been most devastating in Tasmania where at least 128 homes have been destroyed since Friday. Hundreds of people remain at two evacuation centres in the state's south, as fires continue to burn.

Press Association

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