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Last Updated: Monday December 11 2006 15:39 GMT

Australia fires 'out of control'

The fire rages out of control in the alpine village Mt Beauty

Firefighters are battling huge forest fires raging out of control in south-eastern Australia.

Fires which are thought to have been started when lightning struck dry grass have joined up to become at least 10 large fires.

More than 3,000 firefighters are tackling the fires in forests and farmland across the state of Victoria.

People living in the area are getting ready to leave their homes at short notice if the fires spread any further.

So far, about 1,000 square miles of land has been destroyed by fire.

Drought fears

Firefighters at the scene of one fire
Firefighters at the scene of one fire
One of the reasons the fires have been hard to get under control is because Australia is experiencing its worst ever drought.

Australia has its summer time when the UK has its winter.

On Sunday, temperatures hit the highest level they've been for more than 50 years.

This means the land is very dry and a tiny spark can lead to a big fire.

In January 2005, nine people died during Australia's worst fires for 22 years.

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