Australians flee new fire threat

Thousands evacuated from homes in Victoria state amid fears of fresh bushfires.

    Rising temperatures and strong winds are creating conditions for a new outbreak of wildfires [AFP]

    Mark Goode, an official at the Department of Sustainability and Environment in Melbourne, said that contingents from Canada, New Zealand and the United States were helping Australian firefighters tackle the fires.

    "The conditions that we were operating under were another extreme fire danger day today; however a cool change is working its way across Victoria and we anticipate that the next couple of days will give the firefighters a change to contain and control the flames," he told Al Jazeera.

    "A firestorm is a very frightening event and unless you have a lot of preparation around your property, [such as] clearing vegetation, adequate water supplies and protection of windows, then it can be very dangerous."

    Containment battle

    On Friday fire crews fought to control fires around the town of Daylesford, north west of Melbourne, the state capital, amid continuing fears of another bushfire disaster there.

    They quickly doused a number of small fires that broke out around the fire-blackened countryside at Arthurs Seat, east of Melbourne, Ararat, further north and the tourist town of Warrnambool.

    About 400 fires have hit south and southeastern Australia in the past two weeks, scorching about 3,900 sq km of farms, forests and towns.

    Police suspect at least two of the fires were deliberately lit, and have charged a suspect, Brendan Sokaluk, 39, with arson causing death and starting a wildfire.

    Sokaluk, who faces up to 25 years in jail if convicted, is being held in protective custody amid mounting public anger, with internet hate messages calling for his "torture and death".

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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