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Deadly heatwave grips Australia

After killing at least one person in Perth, the extreme weather spreads east.

Last updated: 13 Jan 2014 09:38
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As the temperatures in South Australia soar, health authorities are warning people to drink plenty of water [GETTY]

The extremely hot weather started in Western Australia.

Perth, the state’s capital, is usually cooled by a sea breeze, dubbed the ‘Freemantle Doctor’ by the locals. Sadly the doctor was not on call over the weekend.

Temperatures soared to 43C on Saturday and Sunday, and the weather didn’t cool off much during the evening either.

On Saturday night, temperatures didn’t drop below 29.7C, making it the hottest night in over 110 years of records.

As the heat gripped Western Australia, national parks across the state were closed, as were recreational areas at dams.

A wildfire is thought to have started when a power line was toppled in the city’s wooded outskirts on Sunday.

As soon as it ignited, it quickly spread, the flames fanned by the strong, winds which were gusting as high as 60 kph.

Terrifying 20-metre high flames raced through residential streets, destroying over 40 homes.

One man died as he prepared his house for the oncoming blaze. Four other people are still missing.

Hundreds of residents were forced to take shelter in evacuation centres. Some said they had only seconds to escape.

The weather has now cooled down in Perth, with temperatures on Monday only climbing to 28C. Elsewhere the worst is still to come.

South Australia and Victoria are expecting the heatwave to set in on Tuesday and last for four or five days.

The extreme heat comes at an unfortunate time for Melbourne, which is currently hosting the Australian Open tennis tournament.

Temperatures in the city are expected to climb over 40C every day from Tuesday until Saturday, which will make for hazardous condition for both the players and the spectators.

Heatwaves are a common feature of Australia’s summer, which runs from December to February, and they often turn deadly.

In 2009, wildfires killed 173 people, and destroyed thousands of homes in the state of Victoria.

However, before the wildfires, the preceding heatwave was blamed for the death of another 374 people, who died from heat-related causes, not linked to fires.

The effects of heatwaves should not be under-estimated. South Australia's health department is urging residents to stay indoors, wear cool clothing and drink plenty of water.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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