24 Feb 2024

Fresh warnings issued for bushfire-threatened towns in Victoria

1:46 pm on 24 February 2024
A bushfire, believed to have been sparked by a lightning strike that has ravaged an area of over 2,000 hectares in northern New South Wales state, burns in Port Macquarie on November 2, 2019. The bushfires raging across Australia have had a devastating impact on the country's unique flora and fauna, with some estimates putting the death toll at nearly half a billion animals in one state alone, and experts believe it could take decades for wildlife to recover. (Photo by SAEED KHAN / AFP)

File photo. Photo: Saeed Khan / AFP

A massive out-of-control bushfire in Australia's Victoria state that has destroyed properties and killed livestock prompted fresh evacuation alerts on Saturday for several rural towns.

Emergency authorities early Saturday issued new warnings for the blaze, which on Thursday prompted more than 2000 people to leave towns in the state's west and head to the nearby regional hub of Ballarat, 95km west of state capital Melbourne.

"Leaving immediately is the safest option, before conditions become too dangerous," Vic Emergency said on its website, regarding the fire that has burnt through more than 11,000 hectares.

The highest danger was for small rural communities of Bayindeen, Chute, Elmhurst and Mount Lonarch, the agency said.

Jason Heffernan, chief officer of Victoria state fire department, said on Friday that early reports indicated losses of sheds and livestock in the blaze, with one home confirmed destroyed.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported today that three homes and several outbuildings had been destroyed.

Around 1000 firefighters supported by more than 50 aircraft have battled the fire since it broke out earlier this week.

Australia is currently in the grips of an El Nino weather pattern, which is typically associated with extreme phenomena such as wildfires, cyclones and droughts.

The last two bushfire seasons in Australia have been subdued compared with the 2019-2020 'Black Summer' when bushfires destroyed an area the size of Turkey, killed 33 people, 3 billion animals and trillions of invertebrates.

- This story was first published by Reuters.

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