Victoria bushfire threat abates

MELBOURNE: The worst of the bushfires in Australia’s state of Victoria appeared to be over, officials said, as firefighters battling the blazes welcomed cooler conditions after days of extreme heat.

Four homes were lost in a fire in the Grampians region, in western Victoria, where a massive 52,000ha blaze had threatened townships and prompted the evacuation of holiday spots.

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the fires across the state, most of which were sparked by lightning, had burned through 100,000ha and 34 blazes were still burning.

But he said no emergency warnings were now in place and residents who had evacuated in the Grampians would be able to return home.

“I think the worst is behind us,” Lapsley said.

The southeastern state of Victoria endured a scorching heatwave last week, with millions of residents sweltering through up to five days of searing temperatures in excess of 40°C (104°F).

But cooler temperatures arrived late Friday and while a massive fire was still burning out of control in the Grampians National Park in the state’s west, the emergency warning had been downgraded. — AFP

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