Wildfires rage across southern Australia amid intense heatwave
Published 15/01/2014 | 11:36
Dozens of wildfires sparked by lightning strikes are raging in a heat wave across rural southern Australia.
Firefighters were able to contain most of them in South Australia and Victoria. But they warned of worsening conditions on Friday, when winds were expected to increase.
There were few reported injuries so far. In South Australia a woman burned her hands while trying to save her home in Rockleigh.
In neighboring Victoria, 10 firefighters needed treatment for heat exhaustion. There were no reports of property damage.
Wednesday was the second day of a four-day heat wave forecast across south-east Australia, after temperatures reached 45 C in Adelaide, close to the city's record 46.1C, set in 1939.
Temperatures were expected to come close to 45 C across parts of South Australia and Victoria.
But firefighters said conditions on Friday would still not be as bad as the catastrophe on February 7, 2009, when wildfires killed 173 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes in Victoria.
"It's not to say that we won't have fires and we won't have fires that do damage - that potential is there," a spokesman said. "But it's not the same in speed. It's not the same forecast."
Scorching temperatures at the Australian Open tennis tournament in the Melbourne on thinned crowds and prompted players to pile bags of ice on their heads and necks between points.
Meanwhile residents were returning to their homes in south-west Australia after a heat wave on west coast over the weekend contributed to a fire that destroyed 52 houses in hills east of Perth. One man died while fighting the fire.