Residents flee Australian wildfires

SYDNEY: Residents in Western Australia fled a raging wildfire today that incinerated nearly 40 homes in the country’s worst blaze since “Black Saturday” fires killed 173 in February.

Hundreds of firefighters battled the inferno outside the wheat-farming town of Toodyay, 80 km from the Western Australian capital Perth, apparently sparked when power lines collapsed amid searing heat and high winds.

State Premier Colin

Barnett designated the blaze a natural disaster, enabling the release of emergency funds, as he visited the area.

“This is a devastating fire with great destruction,” he told reporters, adding that the needy would receive a 3,000

dollar (2,675 US dollar) hand-out.

“I want to express my sympathy to those who have lost their homes, over 30 houses destroyed by a very severe, very intense bushfire in the surrounding area of Toodyay.” Some 37 homes along with sheds, outhouses and livestock were engulfed by

the fire, which swept through more than 3,000 hectares of land in the sparsely populated farming community.

Images from the scene showed burnt out buildings, cars, bicycles and scorched trees dotting the arid landscape.

Three firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation and dehydration

and one resident had minor injuries, the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) said.

Police said falling power lines had sparked the fire, AAP reported.

Fire crews who worked through the night said the blaze was nearly under control by this afternoon, aided by cooler weather.

“All the perimeters

are contained. There are really some hot spots

out there and they are burning out a few edges just so they can make it safe,” FESA spokesman Craig Hynes said.

A second major fire in Badgingarra, about 160 kilometres north of

Perth, had burned through some 10,500 hectares

of land, although no homes were lost.