Australian state braces for scorcher amid bushfire threat

February 26th, 2009 - 11:50 am ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Feb 26 (DPA) Firefighters were gearing up as soaring temperatures and strong winds predicted for Friday increased the bushfire threat for communities in the Australian state of Victoria.
Ten major bushfires were still burning across the southern state, where wildfires in February claimed 210 lives, destroyed 2,029 homes, displaced 7,500 people, blackened hundreds and thousands of hectares of forest and farmland, and killed livestock and native animals.

“The fires that are burning, the winds, the lightning and the state of fuel that exists around the whole of Victoria is a cause for real concern,” Emergency Services Commissioner Bruce Esplin told the national news agency AAP. “There is no place for complacency tomorrow (Friday).”

Additional reinforcements from other Australian states and New Zealand were arriving to help almost 4,500 firefighters trying to control fire fronts stretching 1,100 km ahead of worsening weather Friday.

Residents in high-risk areas were advised to decide early either to leave or stay home and defend their property.

Many parks and tourist attractions in south-west Victoria and along the picturesque Great Ocean Road were to remain closed Friday because of the fire danger.

Meanwhile, police arrested two 18-year-old men charged with looting from burned-out houses Feb 7 in south-east Melbourne.

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