independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Wildfires rage across Australia

Homes destroyed by a wildfire between Dunalley and Boomer Bay, east of the Tasmanian capital of Hobart, Australia (AP/Chris Kidd, Pool)

Australian crews are battling a series of wildfires amid scorching temperatures across the country, with one blaze destroying dozens of homes in the island state of Tasmania.

Tasmania police said around 80 buildings were destroyed in and around the small town of Dunalley, east of the Tasmanian capital of Hobart, including the town's school, police station and bakery.

Officials had been investigating a report that one person died in the blaze, but police later said there were no confirmed deaths or injuries.

Wildfires were raging across southern Australia amid blistering temperatures and high winds. The temperature in Hobart reached a record high of nearly 42 degrees Celsius (108 Fahrenheit) on Friday.

Conditions have eased across much of the region, but fire officials warned that the danger from some of the fires remained high.

"We reached catastrophic fire danger ratings at times during this afternoon," Tasmania Fire Service chief officer Mike Brown said. "I don't think we're quite out of the woods yet."

Wildfires are common during the Australian summer. In February 2009, hundreds of fires across Victoria state killed 173 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes.

Press Association

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