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Saturday, January 3, 1998 Published at 15:55 GMT



World: Asia-Pacific

Thousands evacuated as bush fires rage
image: [ Thousands of holidaymakers have been evacuated from forests and national parks ]
Thousands of holidaymakers have been evacuated from forests and national parks

Thousands of holidaymakers have been evacuated from a national park north of Sydney as bush fires rage out of control in two Australian states.

The latest blazes in the south-east of the country have already killed one firefighter and seriously injured at least seven others.


[ image: The firefighters became trapped when the wind changed direction]
The firefighters became trapped when the wind changed direction
Hotter and drier weather is forecast to continue, which could lead to even more fires breaking out.

A total fire ban has also been declared in eight regions of New South Wales.

It is believed at least one fire was caused by an abandoned campfire.


Gilly Paxton, of the Australian Rural Fire service, explains how bush fires killed one firefighter. (Dur 1'00")
A 45-year-old volunteer firefighter died on New Year's Day after he was trapped with six of his colleagues inside a burning water tanker.

The vehicle was engulfed by flames when scorching winds suddenly changed direction in the isolated Wingello State Forest of the New South Wales southern highlands.

Three of the firefighters, reported to include a married couple, remain in a critical condition in hospital. Four others are said to be in a stable condition.


[ image: Michael Young: I thought I was going to die]
Michael Young: I thought I was going to die
Survivor Michael Young said: "I thought I was going to die. I hoped it wouldn't take too long. I was thinking it was going to be a horrible way to die."

The Wingello fire was one of 22 blazing across New South Wales on New Year's Day - all thought to have been sparked by some of the estimated 13,000 overnight lightning strikes on tinder-dry bushland.

Two firefighters were killed on December 2 and a third died a few days later while fighting fires which ringed Sydney. The flames forced the evacuation of thousands of people and destroyed more than a dozen homes.

Another two people died and 21 were injured in an outbreak of fires in Western Australia that incinerated livestock and caused extensive property damage on December 16.


 





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