Page last updated at 10:18 GMT, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Melbourne suffers hottest night as Australia swelters


Many people spent the night on the beach

Melbourne has suffered its hottest night since 1902 as a heat wave grips southern Australia.

While much of the northern hemisphere is suffering from unusually cold conditions, night-time temperatures in Melbourne have reached 34C (93F).

The situation was made worse as air conditioning shut down when power cuts hit homes. Electricity companies said transformers had failed in the heat.

Many residents chose to spend the night on the beach.

Temperatures were expected to rise to 40C (104F) on Tuesday, before becoming cooler.

The city was also hit by more than 100 train cancellations as air conditioning failed on trains, and the heat caused rails to buckle.

Fire warnings

Across Victoria state, paramedics attended to 70 people who had collapsed because of heat-related problems.

Resident Andrew Jefferson, of Ballarat, west of Melbourne, emigrated from Britain in 2001 and said: "It's probably the most uncomfortable night I've ever had down under."

Richard Whitaker, a senior meteorologist for Australia's Weather Channel, said northerly winds from inland were responsible for the Melbourne heatwave.

"Over the last 50 years there is no doubt in Australia, we've seen a rising temperature trend," he said.

Earlier this month, meteorologists said the last 10 years had been the hottest on record in the country.

Firefighters in South Australia fought three bushfires, and code red fire warnings remain in place for Victoria and New South Wales.

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