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19 April 2024

Record-breaking heat wave drives wildfires across Australia

People dive into the sea from the pier at St Kilda beach in Melbourne, Australia. Temperatures reached 43 degrees Celsius on Friday, the third consecutive day that the mercury has topped 40C. (GETTY IMAGES) 

Wildfires have burned eight homes while hundreds of thousands of others lost power as a heat wave maintains its oppressive grip on southern Australia.

South Australia state authorities said on Saturday that the heat had probably caused some of the recent 22 sudden deaths in that state. State Health Minister John Hill said it was not yet clear how many.

Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, on Friday recorded its third consecutive day of temperatures above 43 degrees Celsius (109 F) for the first time since 1855, when record-keeping began.

Authorities said heavy air conditioner use caused an explosion in Melbourne’s electricity grid, blacking out 500,000 homes and businesses while pulling the plug on the city’s electric train network.