Australian fires destroy 68 homes
Firefighters on Tuesday brought a raging wildfire that destroyed 68 houses and damaged 32 others near the Australian city of Perth under control, officials said.
As soldiers and emergency workers helped clean up and repair battered towns on the country's east coast and restore electricity to residents hit by top-strength Cyclone Yasi last week, blazes burned in the west.
"One hundred... firefighters have worked throughout the day and into the night to contain the fire," the Western Australia fire service said after an all-night battle to control a devastating fire that erupted Sunday.
Fast and unpredictable flames swept through rugged terrain at Roleystone, on Perth's southern fringes, and along its northern outskirts at Red Hill, levelling 68 homes and scorching hundreds of hectares (acres) of forest.
The smouldering ruins of houses dotted the landscape on the outskirts of the country's fourth largest city, as the flames that sent residents fleeing from their homes into emergency shelters died down.
"We are talking hundreds of people (homeless), with 68 homes, that's 68 families, that are affected," said Allen Gale of the state Fire and Emergency Services agency.
About 150 firefighters worked through the night to dig fire breaks and strengthen containment lines around the Roleystone blaze, which has burnt about 440 hectares (1,100 acres).
Officials said that despite the ferocious flames, firefighters managed to save a number of homes, sheds and fences from the fire, which was accidentally sparked by someone using an angle grinder.
No deaths or serious injuries were reported, but a fireman was in a stable condition in hospital after being hit by a vehicle while several other people were treated for smoke inhalation.
The fire came just four days after Cyclone Yasi hit Queensland state, wreaking at least Ausê500 million (ê500 million) in crop damage, and weeks after record flooding that killed more than 30 people and swamped tens of thousands of homes in Queensland and Victoria.
An especially strong La Nina weather system, typically bringing cyclones and floods to Australia, has been blamed for the extreme conditions.
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