Bushfire razes Aussie town

Flaming catastrophe: A plume of black smoke rising from a fire near Waroona in Western Australia. — AFP

PERTH: A “catastrophic” bushfire has burnt through a historic town in Western Australia, razing 95 homes and leaving three people unaccounted for, officials said.

The out-of-control blaze 110km south of Perth more than doubled in size in 24 hours and has now burned through 53,000ha, with a third of the town of Yarloop destroyed.

“I believe we’ve had what I would suggest (are) catastrophic losses within Yarloop,” the state’s Fire and Emergency Services commissioner Wayne Gregson told reporters.

“It appears that we’ve lost around 95 houses, a number of structures within the town site including some of the historical buildings.”

Gregson said three or four people had minor injuries as a result of the blaze, which was fanned by strong winds, but added: “Sadly we have three people unaccounted for from Yarloop.”

Yarloop has a population of 500-600 with an estimated 250 homes.

Aerial footage showed houses reduced to just their brick fireplaces, leaving only blackened ground and the burnt-out shells of vehicles.

Yarloop resident Ron Sackville told 6PR radio there was “very little” left.

“I look around 360 degrees and everything is burnt to a cinder. The fire was horrendous,” he said.

Another resident described the overnight emergency – initially triggered by a lightning strike – as like the town was being hit by “fireballs”.

“It was crazy. One fireball after another. It was unbelievable,” Alex Jovanovich told the Australian Broadcasting Corpora­tion.

“It’s devastating,” he said of the damage.

“There’s nothing left. The hall is gone. I believe the pub’s gone. The workshops are gone. The old hospital is gone. I think the church is gone.”

Hundreds of firefighters were battling the blaze, which has prompted evacuations and an emergency warning for nearby towns and surrounding areas. — AFP

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