Wednesday 5 August 2015

Australian wildfires kill one, destroy 100 homes near Sydney

Maggie Lu Yueyang

Published 18/10/2013 | 06:57

Smoke rises from a fire near Springwood, west of Sydney
Smoke rises from a fire near Springwood, west of Sydney

Wildfires claimed one life and destroyed at least 100 homes near Sydney, Australia's biggest city, after forcing thousands to evacuate their homes, and authorities warned on Friday more homes could be lost as fires burned out of control.

Fuelled by unseasonably high temperatures and strong winds, 100 fires were still burning in New South Wales state in Australia's east, more than 30 of which were uncontained, the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) said.

A 63-year-old man died from a heart attack on Thursday while trying to defend his home from a fire in a coastal community a short drive north of Sydney, an RFS spokesman said.

Thousands of people spent the night in evacuation centres on the western outskirts of the city, as well as to the north and the south.

Astonished Sydneysiders watched on Thursday as a thick pall of smoke from the fires in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney moved across the city over some of its best-known landmarks, including the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

Callers to Sydney talkback radio stations on Thursday reported ash and burnt leaves falling on some of the city's famous beaches, including Bondi.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 21:  Lyndon Dunlop stands by his father as they inspect the damage to his grandparent's home of 41 years destroyed by bushfire on October 21, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. One man has died and hundreds of properties have been destroyed in bushfires that are devastating the Blue Mountains and Central Coast regions of New South Wales.  (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 21: Lyndon Dunlop stands by his father as they inspect the damage to his grandparent's home of 41 years destroyed by bushfire on October 21, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. One man has died and hundreds of properties have been destroyed in bushfires that are devastating the Blue Mountains and Central Coast regions of New South Wales. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 21: A home destroyed by bushfire as seen on October 21, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. One man has died and hundreds of properties have been destroyed in bushfires that are devastating the Blue Mountains and Central Coast regions of New South Wales. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 21: Jake Daschke salvages his car from his home destroyed by bushfire on October 21, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. One man has died and hundreds of properties have been destroyed in bushfires that are devastating the Blue Mountains and Central Coast regions of New South Wales. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 21: Lyndon Dunlop inspects the remains of of his grandparent's home of 41 years destroyed by bushfire on October 21, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. One man has died and hundreds of properties have been destroyed in bushfires that are devastating the Blue Mountains and Central Coast regions of New South Wales. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 21: A home destroyed by bushfire as seen on October 21, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. One man has died and hundreds of properties have been destroyed in bushfires that are devastating the Blue Mountains and Central Coast regions of New South Wales. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 21: A home and car destroyed by bushfire as seen on October 21, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. One man has died and hundreds of properties have been destroyed in bushfires that are devastating the Blue Mountains and Central Coast regions of New South Wales. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 21: Lyndon Dunlop walks in the backyard of of his grandparent's home of 41 years destroyed by bushfire on October 21, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. One man has died and hundreds of properties have been destroyed in bushfires that are devastating the Blue Mountains and Central Coast regions of New South Wales. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 21: A dog walks in the backyard of a home destroyed by bushfire as seen on October 21, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. One man has died and hundreds of properties have been destroyed in bushfires that are devastating the Blue Mountains and Central Coast regions of New South Wales. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 21: A home and car destroyed by bushfire as seen on October 21, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. One man has died and hundreds of properties have been destroyed in bushfires that are devastating the Blue Mountains and Central Coast regions of New South Wales. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 21: Tea cups sit on a letterbox at a home destroyed by bushfire as seen on October 21, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. One man has died and hundreds of properties have been destroyed in bushfires that are devastating the Blue Mountains and Central Coast regions of New South Wales. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 21: A home destroyed by bushfire as seen on October 21, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. One man has died and hundreds of properties have been destroyed in bushfires that are devastating the Blue Mountains and Central Coast regions of New South Wales. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 21: Lyndon Dunlop inspects the remains of of his grandparent's home of 41 years destroyed by bushfire on October 21, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. One man has died and hundreds of properties have been destroyed in bushfires that are devastating the Blue Mountains and Central Coast regions of New South Wales. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 21: A home destroyed by bushfire as seen on October 21, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. One man has died and hundreds of properties have been destroyed in bushfires that are devastating the Blue Mountains and Central Coast regions of New South Wales. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 21: Melissa White assists her sister Christie Daschke at her home destroyed by bushfire on October 21, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. One man has died and hundreds of properties have been destroyed in bushfires that are devastating the Blue Mountains and Central Coast regions of New South Wales. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 21: A home destroyed by bushfire as seen on October 21, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. One man has died and hundreds of properties have been destroyed in bushfires that are devastating the Blue Mountains and Central Coast regions of New South Wales. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 21: Melissa White assists her sister Christie Daschke at her home destroyed by bushfire on October 21, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. One man has died and hundreds of properties have been destroyed in bushfires that are devastating the Blue Mountains and Central Coast regions of New South Wales. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
WINMALEE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 18: The shell of a bicycle sits amongst the remians of a home destroyed by bushfire as seen on October 18, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. One man has died and dozens of properties have been destroyed in bushfires that are devastating the Blue Mountains and Central Coast regions of New South Wales. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 12: A home destroyed by bushfire as seen on October 18, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. One man has died and dozens of properties have been destroyed in bushfires that are devastating the Blue Mountains and Central Coast regions of New South Wales. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
WINMALEE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 18: A home destroyed by bushfire as seen on October 18, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. One man has died and dozens of properties have been destroyed in bushfires that are devastating the Blue Mountains and Central Coast regions of New South Wales. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
WINMALEE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 18: Ornaments are seen at a home destroyed by bushfire on October 18, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. One man has died and dozens of properties have been destroyed in bushfires that are devastating the Blue Mountains and Central Coast regions of New South Wales. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
A general view of the Sydney CBD shrouded in smoke haze is seen on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. Sydney is shrouded in a haze of smoke as brushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow. (Photo by Cassie Trotter/Getty Images)
Smoke fills the sky over Sydney CBD as Bushfires Rage Across NSW on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. The brushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)
A general view of the North Sydney CBD shrouded in smoke haze on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. Sydney is shrouded in a haze of smoke as bushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow. (Photo by Cassie Trotter/Getty Images)
A general view of play during the Ryobi Cup cricket match between the South Australian Redbacks and the Western Australia Warriors at Drummoyne Oval on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. Sydney is shrouded in a haze of smoke as brushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
A general view of play during the Ryobi Cup cricket match between the South Australian Redbacks and the Western Australia Warriors at Drummoyne Oval on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. Sydney is shrouded in a haze of smoke as brushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
A general view of Sydney harbour shrouded in smoke haze on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. Sydney is shrouded in a haze of smoke as bushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
A general view of Sydney harbour shrouded in smoke haze on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. Sydney is shrouded in a haze of smoke as bushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
In this photo provided by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, smoke rises from a fire near Springwood, west of Sydney, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. Nearly a hundred wildfires are burning across Australia's New South Wales state, more than a dozen of which are out of control, as unseasonably hot temperatures and strong winds fanned flames across the parched landscape. (AP Photo/New South Wales Rural Fire Service)
An aerial view of smoke from bushfires in Lithgow, New South Wales, is seen in this still frame taken from a October 17, 2013 video provided by Seven Network Australia. At least seven emergency warnings have been issued for fires burning out of control in New South Wales (NSW) on Thursday, the state's Rural Fire Service (RFS) said. The RFS website added more than 60 bushfires were reported in the Australian state including around 20 that are classified as out of control. REUTERS/SEVEN NETWORK/ via Reuters (AUSTRALIA - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT) NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. AUSTRALIA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN AUSTRALIA. SEVEN NETWORK - NO ACCESS AUSTRALIA / .COM.AU INTERNET SITES / ANY INTERNET SITE OF ANY AUSTRALIAN BASED MEDIA ORGANISATIONS OR MOBILE PLATFORMS / AUSTRALIAN NVO CLIENTS / SMH.COM.AU / NEWS.COM.AU. MANDATORY CREDIT TO SEVEN NETWORK. TEMPLATE OUT
A helicopter releases water over bushfires in Lithgow, New South Wales, in this still frame taken from a October 17, 2013 video provided by Seven Network Australia. At least seven emergency warnings have been issued for fires burning out of control in New South Wales (NSW) on Thursday, the state's Rural Fire Service (RFS) said. The RFS website added more than 60 bushfires were reported in the Australian state including around 20 that are classified as out of control. REUTERS/SEVEN NETWORK/ via Reuters (AUSTRALIA - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT) NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. AUSTRALIA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN AUSTRALIA. SEVEN NETWORK - NO ACCESS AUSTRALIA / .COM.AU INTERNET SITES / ANY INTERNET SITE OF ANY AUSTRALIAN BASED MEDIA ORGANISATIONS OR MOBILE PLATFORMS / AUSTRALIAN NVO CLIENTS / SMH.COM.AU / NEWS.COM.AU. MANDATORY CREDIT TO SEVEN NETWORK. TEMPLATE OUT
A helicopter flies as smoke from bushfires in Lithgow, New South Wales, is seen in this still frame taken from a October 17, 2013 video provided by Seven Network Australia. At least seven emergency warnings have been issued for fires burning out of control in New South Wales (NSW) on Thursday, the state's Rural Fire Service (RFS) said. The RFS website added more than 60 bushfires were reported in the Australian state including around 20 that are classified as out of control. REUTERS/SEVEN NETWORK/ via Reuters (AUSTRALIA - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT) NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. AUSTRALIA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN AUSTRALIA. SEVEN NETWORK - NO ACCESS AUSTRALIA / .COM.AU INTERNET SITES / ANY INTERNET SITE OF ANY AUSTRALIAN BASED MEDIA ORGANISATIONS OR MOBILE PLATFORMS / AUSTRALIAN NVO CLIENTS / SMH.COM.AU / NEWS.COM.AU. MANDATORY CREDIT TO SEVEN NETWORK. TEMPLATE OUT
In this photo provided by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service the remains of a structure are in a crumpled pile after a wildfire destroyed the building, at an unknown location in Australia, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. Nearly a hundred wildfires are burning across Australia's New South Wales state, more than a dozen of which are out of control, as unseasonably hot temperatures and strong winds fanned flames across the parched landscape. (AP Photo/New South Wales Rural Fire Service,)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 17: A general view of play during the Ryobi Cup cricket match between the South Australian Redbacks and the Western Australia Warriors at Drummoyne Oval on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. Sydney is shrouded in a haze of smoke as brushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 17: A general view of play during the Ryobi Cup cricket match between the South Australian Redbacks and the Western Australia Warriors at Drummoyne Oval on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. Sydney is shrouded in a haze of smoke as brushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 17: A general view of play during the Ryobi Cup cricket match between the South Australian Redbacks and the Western Australia Warriors at Drummoyne Oval on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. Sydney is shrouded in a haze of smoke as brushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 17: A general view of play during the Ryobi Cup cricket match between the South Australian Redbacks and the Western Australia Warriors at Drummoyne Oval on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. Sydney is shrouded in a haze of smoke as brushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 17: A general view of play during the Ryobi Cup cricket match between the South Australian Redbacks and the Western Australia Warriors at Drummoyne Oval on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. Sydney is shrouded in a haze of smoke as brushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 17: A general view of play during the Ryobi Cup cricket match between the South Australian Redbacks and the Western Australia Warriors at Drummoyne Oval on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. Sydney is shrouded in a haze of smoke as brushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 17: (EDITORS NOTE: Image was created with a smartphone.) A general view of the Sydney CBD shrouded in smoke haze is seen on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. Sydney is shrouded in a haze of smoke as brushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow. (Photo by Cassie Trotter/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 17: Smoke covers the ANZAC Bridge and surrounding areas as bushfires rage across NSW on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. The brushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 17: Smoke covers the ANZAC Bridge and surrounding areas as bushfires rage across NSW on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. The brushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 17: Smoke covers the ANZAC Bridge and surrounding areas as bushfires rage across NSW on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. The brushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 17: Smoke fills the sky over Sydney CBD as Bushfires Rage Across NSW on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. The brushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 17: Smoke covers the ANZAC Bridge and surrounding areas as bushfires rage across NSW on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. The brushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 17: Smoke fills the sky over Sydney CBD as Bushfires Rage Across NSW on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. The brushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 17: Smoke fills the sky over Sydney CBD as Bushfires Rage Across NSW on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. The brushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 17: Smoke fills the sky over Sydney CBD as Bushfires Rage Across NSW on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. The brushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

Emergency warnings remained in place for fires in the Blue Mountains and the Central Coast, just north of Sydney.

The biggest threat was on an uncontained fire in Wyong, 75 km (45 miles) north of Sydney, with some homes believed to have been destroyed, the RFS said in its latest update.

NSW Police and Emergency Services Minister Mike Gallacher said the loss of just 100 homes could be considered "lucky" given the magnitude of the threat posed by the fires.

"I suspect given what I saw last night ... I think the potential is most certainly much higher," Gallacher told Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) radio.

Residents said whole streets had been razed in some communities in the Blue Mountains, where schools and businesses were forced to close.

"My son was here, a 19-year-old boy, and we were talking to him on the phone and we simply said grab a few things," Blue Mountains resident Ron Fuller told ABC radio.

"He grabbed his favourite bass (guitar) and a couple of items and he got out, and as he was driving up the street he could see the flames coming into a little gorge behind us and then the next thing the houses were all going up one by one."

Authorities expected to reopen some areas in the Blue Mountains as the weather turned milder on Friday.

With dry weather and a massive land area, Australia is particularly prone to brushfires. In 2009, the "Black Saturday" wildfires in Victoria state killed 173 people and caused $4.4 billion worth of damage.

Additional reporting by Lachlan Brunton and Lincoln Feast; Editing by Paul Tait

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