200 houses burn down

2013-10-20 09:09
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Wildfires burn through Australia

Smoke and ash from wildfires burning across the state of New South Wales, Australia blanketed the Sydney city skyline and caused massive damage in the area. See the pictures.

Sydney - The tally of houses lost to forest fires passed 200 on Sunday as brigades in south-eastern Australia battled blazes threatening dozens of homes.

Residents were warned of torrid fire conditions to come.

Lower temperatures and calmer winds provided relief for worn out firefighters, bolstered by fresh crews who drove overnight to reach the Blue Mountains hot spot, 70km west of Sydney.

But with winds expected to pick up and scorching temperatures on their way, the Rural Fire Service (RFS) warned of more death and destruction.

One person has died and, at the last count, 208 houses have been lost since the crisis erupted on Thursday.

"Crews have been back-burning overnight to strengthen containment lines and are on alert to switch to active firefighting if properties come under threat," RFS spokesperson Russell Taylor said. "We'll be deploying even more today."

Fire ban

A total ban on lighting fires outside was declared by the New South Wales state government.

"I'm increasingly concerned about the potential for significant fire runs and consequential damage if the weather conditions materialise like they're indicating they could over this week," state Premier Barry O'Farrell said.

RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons warned of "some pretty deteriorating, awful, conditions over the coming days."

A mostly volunteer force of 1 500 backed by water-bombing aircraft is helping Blue Mountains residents defend their homes from fires that have burned more than 100 000 hectares.

The dozens of blazes have a combined perimeter of over 400 kilometres.

Matt Stephens, who lives in the Blue Mountains hamlet of Sun Valley, told local news agency AAP that he would stay and defend his home for as long as he could, and then dash for safety.

"We've about 50 metres of lawn at the back of the house and the front basically goes straight on to the road so I'm hopeful," Stephens said. "We've got all the stuff by the door ready to go."

Read more on:    austrailia  |  fires

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