Heat wave fans autumn fires in Australia's south

   

A record heat wave has hit Australia's southern states, fanned by scorching winds blowing south from the country's northern desert outback, two weeks after the end of a mild and damp summer.

 

The hot autumn weather sparked a series of small bushfires in the South Australia state, where temperatures topped 40 degrees Celsius on Friday, the 12th straight day of temperatures above 35 degrees.

 

The hot spell in the state capital of Adelaide is the longest recorded in an Australian capital city, and prompted authorities to close all parks and order trains to slow down due to fears rail lines could buckle in the extreme heat.

 

More than 200 firefighters spent Friday battling a series of bushfires around Adelaide, including a major blaze south of the city which destroyed one home and charred 150 hectares of grasslands.

 

Nine firefighters were injured. Volunteer firefighters Peter Bishop said he had a lucky escape after his truck was caught in the flames.

 

"Parts of the front of the truck were melted," he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. "I knew that we had to get out of the smoke, we drove out into a clear spot," he said, adding the crew were rescued by helicopter a short time later.

 

In the southern Victoria state, temperatures climbed to 39 degrees Celsius, firefighters were put on alert across the state, and a ban placed on outdoor fires.

 

The Bureau of Meteorology expects the hot spell to remain for several more days before a return to more normal autumn conditions.

 

Most of Australia, the world's driest inhabited continent, has been in drought for seven years, with most cities imposing tough restrictions on water use, banning the use of garden sprinklers and limiting times for hand watering gardens. (Reuters)

 
 
 
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