Hundreds in Australia flee as wildfires destroy homes and kill cattle

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 March, 2018, 4:31am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 March, 2018, 4:31am

Australian authorities urged people to remain alert on Monday as wildfires that have destroyed homes, killed cattle and forced hundreds of residents to flee continued to burn out of control in the southeast of the country.

No deaths or serious injuries were reported as of Monday morning, but the bush fires have caused extensive damage in rural Victoria and New South Wales states.

The fires, believed to have been sparked by lightning on Saturday, were fanned by dry, hot winds as temperatures reached 41 C (106F) throughout Sunday.

Emergency officials said conditions should ease on Monday but “watch and act” warnings remained in place for five locations.

Up to 35 homes and a school were destroyed in the small coastal town of Tathra in New South Wales, authorities said, where people fled to the beach to avoid the flames. Evacuation centres have been set up and several schools in affected areas were closed on Monday.

About 280 firefighters were battling the blazes while 22,000 homes were without power in the region after the high winds brought down trees, Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley said on Sunday.

In the northern city of Darwin, about 25,000 homes were also without power after a tropical cyclone felled trees. No deaths were reported.

Bush fires are a common and deadly threat in Australia’s hot, dry summers, fuelled by highly flammable eucalyptus trees.

In January, hundreds of holidaymakers had to be evacuated by boat from the beaches of the Royal National Park south of Sydney, when they became trapped by bush fires.

The 2009 Black Saturday bush fires in Victoria killed 173 people and injured more than 400.