World / Asia-Pacific

95 homes destroyed by Western Australia wildfire

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-01-08 21:02

SYDNEY - An out-of-control wildfire in Western Australia state has destroyed nearly 95 homes after it tore through a small rural town just south of Perth overnight, prompting fears three people were missing, local authorities said on Friday.

Hot and strong wind gusts have fanned the wildfire, or bushfire as its commonly known in Australia, after it was started from a lightning strike on Tuesday morning, razing over 58,000 hectares of land to create a fire perimeter of over 200 kilometers.

Western Australia state Fire and Emergency Services commissioner Wayne Gregson said on Friday the conditions have been "extremely difficult" and the fire was "uncontrolled" and "very unpredictable".

"You get fires to a certain stage of intensity, where it makes little difference," Gregson said.

"It would be like tipping a glass of water on a roaring bonfire. You can get to the stage where your suppression activity is not going to make a significant difference to the fire suppression efforts."

Overnight the fire ripped through the small town of Yarloop, approximately 120 kilometers south of Perth with population 545, destroying nearly 95 homes, the local post office, hotel and the town's fire station, among other significant buildings.

"It just got out of control... after that it just ripped through, it was quite scary," Jesse Puccio, a volunteer rural fire-fighter told Australia's national broadcaster.

Three people were reported missing from the town earlier on Friday, however at approximately 17:30 local time (AEDT), Australian authorities confirmed they had been accounted for.

Gregson said local authorities are still considering asking their interstate counter parts for assistance as the fire is still threatening significant dairy and beef producing towns south of Perth, though it would depend on how long the fired burned.

Nearby the fire zone, U.S. based Alcoa Inc's alumina refinery is operating at a reduced capacity. The company confirmed on Friday its mining operations remain suspended after two of its buildings were destroyed.

Wildfires are an annual summer event in Australia, however authorities have been on high alert since September last year over unseasonably warm temperatures, prompting scientists to speculate climate change could be a factor in extending the fire season.

Four people tragically died in a series of wildfires sparked by lightning in Western Australia state in November last year following a spate of earlier blazes in other Australian states from persistent hot and dry conditions. Most recently more than 100 homes were destroyed along Australia's Great Ocean Road in Victoria state over the Christmas period.

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