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Last Updated: Friday, 27 January 2006, 04:44 GMT
Rains help quench Australia fires
An animal worker rescues a koala from a region threatened by fire
Animals are also suffering as a result of the bushfires
Thunderstorms in the Australian state of Victoria have dampened some of the bushfires sweeping through the area.

But at least four fires are continuing to burn - three of them less than 100 km (62 miles) away from Melbourne.

The fires have destroyed dozens of buildings, and are currently threatening several small towns.

The largest blaze, near the Grampian mountains, has razed 120,000 hectares (nearly 300,000 acres) of land and killed tens of thousands of livestock.

Victorian Country Fire Authority deputy chief officer Graham Fountain said the recent rains had brought a small amount of relief.

"Whilst the rain wasn't enough to totally extinguish the fires, it did minimise the fire behaviour and the immediate threat to a number of towns sitting around these fire areas," he told the Associated Press.

But Mr Fountain warned that the rain could actually cause more problems in the long term, as they could hamper efforts to deliberately burn land so the bushfires run out of fuel.

"The rain is a bit of a double-edged sword," he said.

He also told Reuters news agency that lightening had sparked another fire north-west of the Grampians blaze.

"Fire crews and aircraft are currently trying to bring that new blaze under control today," he said.

In the past week, the fires across southern Australia have claimed three lives, including that of a volunteer fire-fighter.

Australia suffers from bushfires every summer. Earlier this month, several homes in New South Wales and in western Victoria were destroyed.

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