Cool spell gives Australian firefighters breathing space to contain blazes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 January, 2013, 11:32am

Firefighters in Australia, which is emerging from last week's record heat wave, are taking advantage of cooler weather to contain bushfires that destroyed property and claimed lives.

Temperatures in Sydney, the nation's largest city, dropped significantly over the weekend after reaching a record 45.8 degrees Celsius on Friday. More than 120 blazes were still burning in New South Wales and Victoria.

Hot weather is expected to return this week, with Melbourne forecast to rise to 35 degrees on Thursday, while the national capital, Canberra, which posted its second- highest temperature of 41.6 degrees on Friday, will reach 34 degrees tomorrow while Sydney will register 30 degrees.

The continent registered a national average of 40.33 degrees on January 7, the hottest day in more than 100 years of records.

More than 150 homes have been destroyed the nation's southeast this month. An 80-year-old man was killed last week by a blaze in the Victoria town of Seaton, while a firefighter died earlier this month in the island state of Tasmania, where around 100 homes have been destroyed.