Page last updated at 13:55 GMT, Saturday, 31 January 2009

Australia counts heatwave deaths

By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Sydney


Aftermath of the fires in Victoria

The Australian authorities fear about 20 people have died as a result of one of the worst heatwaves in 100 years to hit the south-east of the country.

Most of them were elderly people who had been struggling in the heat.

The heatwave has also caused power outages in Melbourne, Australia's second biggest city.

The temperature has eased to 31C (88F) after reaching highs of more than 40C in recent days in south-eastern states of Victoria and South Australia.

The extreme heat of the past three days has caused disruption, destruction and death.


In Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, health officials reported more than 20 sudden deaths, most of them elderly people overcome by the baking temperatures, who had suffered strokes and heart attacks.

Raging wildfires have ripped through the Gippsland region of neighbouring Victoria, and at least 10 homes have been destroyed near the rural town of Boolarra.

In Melbourne, the state capital, the heatwave has meant disruption to transportation services and power outages.

Trains have been cancelled because the rail lines have buckled in the heat.

An explosion at an electrical substation left over 300,000 homes without power.

Some traffic lights in the city have stopped working, so too the signals in parts of the rail network.

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