Australians flee homes as fires rage; police investigate

More than 100 forest fires are burning in the states of Queensland and New South Wales, some thought to be suspicious.

    Firefighters back burning in northern New South Wales. as Australia grapples with spring-time bushfires. [Darren England/EPA]
    Firefighters back burning in northern New South Wales. as Australia grapples with spring-time bushfires. [Darren England/EPA]

    Hundreds of people in Australia have fled their homes in the eastern states as 140 fires ravaged parts of Queensland and New South Wales (NSW), officials said on Tuesday.

    Strong winds have fanned bushfires in the two Australian states since Monday, with flames out of control in some areas, ravaging thousands of hectares of land.

    At least eight of those fires are suspicious and will be investigated, Queensland Police Commissioner Katrina Carroll told reporters.

    "The consequences of some of these fires are dire," she said. "People can die. Buildings and residences are being destroyed."

    In the northeastern state of Queensland alone, low humidity levels, high winds and dried vegetation have fuelled 85 fires that have destroyed or damaged 84 houses across the state, fire service officials said.

    There were more than 400 people in evacuation centres, acting Queensland premier Jackie Trad told reporters. She added that there were no reports of anyone dead or missing.

    "Apart from Sunshine Coast, we are still seeing fires right throughout the state," she said.

    In neighbouring New South Wales, firefighters were battling about 55 fires and about five properties had been confirmed destroyed, the NSW Rural Fire Service said on Monday.

    Bushfires have started earlier than normal in the southern hemisphere spring. Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said winds would intensify throughout the day on Tuesday, but fire threats should ease on Wednesday. 

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    SOURCE: News agencies