Raging bushfires kill 8 in Australia
At least eight people including two children died as bushfires fanned by searing temperatures and high winds raged through parts of South Australia state yesterday, threatening towns and destroying properties.
An adult and two children died as the fire swept a farming property near the tiny township of Wanilla on South Australia's rugged Eyre Peninsula.
Two adults died nearby as the car in which they were believed to have been travelling was engulfed by flames and another three people were found burned to death in a vehicle near the seaside township of Poonidie near Port Lincoln.
"The latest death toll has reached eight," police chief inspector Malcolm Schluter said.
"We still have a number of people who are unaccounted for and we are endeavouring to establish their whereabouts... but at this stage they're listed as missing."
He said there was significant property damage across the entire fire path, but police were unable to say how many buildings had been destroyed.
"People got out of the road of the fire and then they got
into the water," a South Australia state emergency services spokesman told Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) radio.
A major fire burning along a front of several kilometres on the west coast of the Eyre Peninsula broke out yesterday morning. Another was burning near Mount Osmond, an outlying suburb of the state capital Adelaide.
Neither had been brought under control by late yesterday, but the fire authorities said they were confident the blazes could be controlled this morning following an easing of weather conditions.
The worst possible conditions were created by strong, gusting winds and temperatures that topped 44 C in some parts of South Australia, already tinder-dry after years of severe drought.
In Adelaide the temperature rose above 41 C yesterday.
"There is no firefighting force in the world that can stop the fire in the conditions we experienced today," Country Fire Service spokesman Simon Vogel said.
Schluter said the fire in the lower Eyre Peninsula, buffeted by strong winds, raced across an area of some 13 to 15 kilometres during the day.
"It was a hopeless situation for the many, many firefighters who have come to the district to try and help," Schluter told ABC radio. "It was just too much for them because of the horrendous climatic conditions today.
The Eyre Peninsula blaze was the most severe of numerous bushfires reported throughout the state, including two separate fires which forced the closure of highways on Adelaide's southern and southeastern outskirts.