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Australians flee massive bushfire amid lockdown

February 2, 2021

The out-of-control fire near the city of Perth in Western Australia has destroyed dozens of homes. Many residents across the region have been told it's too late to evacuate.

A firefighter sprays a hose on flames
The number of houses lost to the blaze is expected to riseImage: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Residents near the Australian city of Perth were forced to leave their homes during a coronavirus-induced lockdown on Tuesday due to an uncontained blaze. 

At least 56 homes have been destroyed and firefighters were said to be working in "extremely volatile" conditions to prevent more properties from being lost.

"The fire is currently 7,000 hectares in size with the perimeter of around 75 kilometers (47 miles)," Department of Fire and Emergency Services Deputy Commissioner Craig Waters told local media.

The fire doubled in size overnight, with strong gusts fanning the flames

"Strong winds are hampering us getting in and containing the fire and bringing it under control,'' he said.

Hundreds of residents were forced to take shelter at evacuation centers, although people in some areas were later told it was too dangerous to leave their homes.

"I could smell the fire and went out the back and the whole yard was filled with smoke,'' said Melissa Stahl, 49, who received a text message telling her to evacuate. "We grabbed bedding, photos, the two kids and the dog and got out of there,'' she added.

Firefighters battle a bushfire near Perth
Firefighters hampered by strong winds battled the fire through the nightImage: Evan Collis/DFES/AP/picture alliance

Regions under lockdown

Roads out of some Perth suburbs were lined with cars as people attempted to leave, amid confusion about where to go during a COVID-19 lockdown.

Perth is two days into a five-day lockdown that was imposed after a security guard at a quarantine hotel tested positive for the coronavirus. 

"Right now, [Western Australia] is battling two different kinds of emergencies, a dangerous fire emergency and a COVID-19 lockdown emergency," Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan told reporters.

Under the measures, around 2 million residents of Perth, as well as residents of nearby Peel and the southwest regions, must stay at home.

see,nm/aw (AFP, AP)