Thousands flee homes as bushfires rage in southern Australia | News | DW | 03.01.2015
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Thousands flee homes as bushfires rage in southern Australia

Firefighters in southern areas of Australia are struggling to contain several major blazes fanned by high winds. The state of South Australia is facing its worst fire threat since deadly bushfires in 1983.

Several houses were burnt out in southern Australia on Saturday as fire services battled a number of blazes across the region.

The worst fire has occurred in the Adelaide Hills in the state of South Australia, where five homes have been destroyed, with hundreds of others at risk, according to state Country Fire Service spokesman Daniel Hamilton.

The out-of-control blaze at Sampson Flat, helped by high temperatures and strong gusts of wind, is the worst fire in the state in more than thirty years.

"Right at this moment, residents in the Adelaide Hills are being confronted by a fire which hasn't been seen in the hills since the 1983 bushfires of Ash Wednesday," said Country Fire Service chief Greg Nettleton.

The Ash Wednesday bushfires killed more than 70 people in South Australia and the neighboring state of Victoria and destroyed thousands of homes and buildings.

Recommended evacuation

South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill urged residents in areas at risk to leave their homes, as strengthening winds prompted fears that the fires could worsen.

"It could be a catastrophic decision for you to leave late," he said.

Across the state border in Victoria, firefighters have successfully contained more than 300 fires since Friday. One home has been destroyed in the western town of Moyston in a blaze that is still considered to pose a danger.

Bushfires are common across much of Australia in the summer months. In February 2009, "Black Saturday" bushfires in Victoria killed 173 people and burned down more than 2,000 homes in what was Australia's worst natural disaster of modern times.

Earlier this month, judges at the Victorian Supreme Court approved a payout of 494 million Australian dollars (334 million euros, $301 million) to victims of the fires after a Royal Commission found that old power lines had caused the bushfires.

tj/cd (dpa, AFP, AP)