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Last Updated: Monday, 2 January 2006, 04:58 GMT
Australian fires continue to rage
By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Bushfires have destroyed more than a dozen homes and threatened hundreds more in south-eastern Australia.

Strong winds and very high temperatures have conspired to push giant walls of flames towards some communities.

An ambulance worker died after helping residents escape to an evacuation centre, as temperatures soared to 47C.

In recent hours, rain has brought some relief to emergency crews north of Sydney, but dozens of fires still continue to burn.

The bushfires swept through parched eucalyptus forests in the central coast area, north of Sydney.

Several homes were destroyed, and hundreds of residents were forced to leave their properties as the blaze advanced.

A volunteer ambulance worker died of a heart attack while helping evacuees in the town of Woy Woy.

Many roads became impassable, and for some families the only means of escape was by boat.

Investigators say that arsonists could have been responsible for some of the outbreaks.

A cold front has brought relief from the scorching conditions, and, with it, some much needed rain.

But fires continue to burn across Australia's south-eastern corner - one of the world's most fire-prone regions.

Forecasters have predicted that more hot and windy weather is likely in the days ahead.

Footage of the bushfires

Bushfires edging towards Sydney
01 Jan 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Canberra fire response 'too slow'
04 Aug 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Australian fire conditions ease
31 Jan 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia faces new blaze threat
24 Jan 03 |  Asia-Pacific

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