Smoke rises behind a hill as a house is threatened by fires in the suburb of Baskerville near Perth. AFP
Gulf Today Report
Australia said on Thursday 81 homes have been destroyed by fires across the country's west, as a mammoth effort by Australian firefighters saved homes from an out-of-control bushfire near Perth overnight.
No deaths have been reported from the fires, the origins of which are still unknown, although the blazes are a reminder of the scores of fires that razed large swathes of Australia's east coast last year, authorities said on Thursday, but warned strong winds and rough terrain posed an ongoing challenge.
Western Australia state Premier Mark McGowan said firefighters have managed to curtail the biggest of the 7 fires still alight, but he warned strong winds had the potential to escalate the danger.
"These fires are highly unpredictable and things can go bad very quickly," McGowan told reporters in Perth.
"Weather conditions are still volatile, with strong winds forecast."
But after “a bleak couple of days,” he said, firefighters managed to keep the flames at bay overnight as the blaze threatened homes in more populous areas.
“This is a truly remarkable achievement given the ferocity of the fire. And that, as far as we know, no additional homes have been lost overnight thanks to the incredible work of our fireys,” McGowan said.
It comes about a year after Australia was hit by unprecedented climate change-fuelled bushfires, devastating whole communities and wiping out billions of animals.
More than 3.5 million hectares were burned across Western Australia during 2019-2020 but the state was largely spared the loss of properties and lives seen in the country’s more densely populated southeast.
Scientists say fires are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change, with people living in urban-bushland areas like the Perth Hills especially vulnerable to the impact of blazes.
Hundreds of people have fled the area in recent days and emergency warnings remain in place.
More than 250 firefighters were operating in rough and hilly terrain, making their task “really difficult,” said department of fire and emergency services commissioner Darren Klemm.
Winds of up to 70 kilometres an hour (43 mph) have left some water bombing planes grounded and were continuing to fan the flames.
“We should be really confident about the work that has been done last night to keep the (homes) safe. But we still have challenges today, tonight and tomorrow,” Klemm said.
Officials are pinning their hopes on rain forecast for the weekend to dampen the blaze.
The bushfire hit a population that had just been forced into a snap lockdown after a rare coronavirus case was detected in a man working in a quarantine hotel for arriving international travellers.
About two million people in and around Perth fell under the stay-at-home orders imposed on Sunday.
Residents largely appear to have complied with official warnings to ignore coronavirus lockdown and leave threatened areas for safety.
The restrictions are expected to ease Friday after no further infections were found.
The hotel worker was the first person infected with Covid-19 in Perth for 10 months.
Thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes in Perth, complicating a five-day lockdown imposed on Monday on the state capital after Western Australia detected its first coronavirus infection in 10 months.
The fire in Western Australia has destroyed a swathe of more than 9,000 hectares (22,240 acres) and 71 homes, the authorities say, in a reminder of blazes that destroyed millions of hectares of habitat in the country’s east a year ago.
Thousands of tourists risked being stranded in Australia's south east Monday, as a new heatwave left firefighters across the country bracing for another round of potentially catastrophic bushfire.
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