MELBOURNE: One person has died in a massive bushfire raging in southeastern Australia, police said Friday, as firefighters around the country battled blazes amid a scorching heatwave.
Police said the body was found at the Grampians National Park town of Roses Gap in the west of Victoria state, where the capital Melbourne has sweltered in searing temperatures this week.
“The death is being treated as occurring as a result of the fires,” Victoria Police said, as officials warned that conditions were set to worsen later Friday.
The Northern Grampians fire, which is burning out of control over about 21,000 hectares and has prompted people to evacuate the area, is one of dozens burning in Victoria, neighbouring South Australia and New South Wales. People began leaving the Grampians holiday town of Halls Gap, on the edge of the national park, on Thursday.
“They all started leaving last night when they saw the big red glow on top of the mountain,” Rohan McDonald, owner of the Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park, told Australian Associated Press.
“We are covered in smoke, there is a massive plume that looks like an atomic bomb has gone off over the top of the mountain,” he added.
Victoria´s Country Fire Authority (CFA) has warned of worsening conditions in coming hours as an expected wind change arrives, bringing gusts which could fan the flames.
“Halls Gap is seriously under threat when the wind change occurs later today,” CFA chief officer Euan Ferguson said.
The situation was also expected to worsen in South Australia during Friday, as a lightning storm hits, potentially sparking more blazes, that state´s Country Fire Service said.
“We will get more (fire) starts, that´s pretty much guaranteed,” chief officer Greg Nettleton said.”But we´re ready for what the weather might serve up to us today.”
Melbourne was expected to register temperatures around 44 degrees Celsius on Friday while the South Australian capital Adelaide was set for 42C, its fifth straight day over 40 degrees, before dropping considerably on Saturday. The temperature reached 44C on Thursday in Adelaide.
In Western Australia, residents are continuing their clean-up in the Perth Hills after fire destroyed 56 homes there on Sunday. The cause of that bushfire has been blamed on a fallen power pole.