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 Sunday, 26 January, 2003, 10:34 GMT
Australia fires spread across mountains
Satellite picture taken on 23 January
Much of south-eastern Australia is covered in smoke
Bush fires have continued to rage in several parts of south-eastern Australia, destroying at least another 10 homes and forcing many residents to flee.

In Australian terms, this is as mountainous as it gets and it's heavily forested and the forests are very, very dry up there

Mike Leonard
Victoria environment department

The fires, fuelled by rising temperatures and high winds, are particularly strong in the Snowy Mountains, which straddle the states of New South Wales and Victoria.

But so far emergency teams have prevented a repeat of last Saturday's disaster near the capital, Canberra - where four people were killed and 530 homes went up in flames.

On Sunday, six homes were destroyed in the mountain village of Cobungra, the authorities in Victoria state say.

At least four homes are believed to have been lost in other villages in the Snowy Mountains.

Evacuations

"In Australian terms, this is as mountainous as it gets and it's heavily forested and the forests are very, very dry up there," Victoria state environment department spokesman Mike Leonard said.

Firefighter in Euroben, Victoria
Thousands of firefighters are battling the flames

The fires have also been fanned by high summer temperatures and winds of about 70 kilometres (40 miles) an hour.

Florence De Vries, a businesswoman in Omeo, said her hometown was virtually deserted as residents fled the approaching flames.

"There's very few people on the main street, we can actually see the smoke building up on the hills when the fires start," she told Australian Associated Press news agency.

One of Australia's main ski mountain resorts, Thredbo, was evacuated last week.

Bush fires have already destroyed some 260,000 hectares (650,000 acres) of national parkland in Victoria over the past couple of weeks.

'National day of crisis'

Elsewhere in Australia, more than 80 fires are continuing to burn across New South Wales.

Map showing Victoria and Tasmania

The state's emergency services minister Bob Debus said the blazes had turned the Australian Day national holiday - which fell on Sunday - in a "national day of crisis".

Firefighters in Tasmania say they have gained control of a fire that was threatening the suburbs of the state capital, Hobart.

Bush fires have also been reported across the country, in Western Australia.


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See also:

23 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
22 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
20 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
20 Jan 03 | Science/Nature
20 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
19 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
06 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
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