Australian firefighters battle blaze destroying homes

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Firefighters in Western Australia battled gusty winds and high temperatures on Tuesday as they fought a bushfire that has scorched thousands of hectares of land, raging out of control to ravage more than 30 homes.

Television broadcast images of air tankers, laden with thousands of litres of water or fire retardant, flying over the flames, spread across more than 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres), about 40 km (25 miles) from the state capital of Perth.

"Right now, Western Australia is battling two different kinds of emergencies - a dangerous fire emergency and a COVID-19 lockdown emergency," said its premier, Mark McGowan.

Perth has been locked down for five days after a coronavirus infection was detected on Sunday. But Tuesday was the state's second straight day with no new infections, allaying fears of a fresh outbreak.

The state issued an emergency fire warning for some suburbs and semi-rural areas near Perth, urging residents to take immediate action to ensure survival.

"There is a threat to lives and homes," the fire department said on its website as authorities advised people they could leave their homes for the closest evacuation centre despite the virus lockdown.

More than 200 firefighters were battling the flames, while weather officials warned climate conditions were unlikely to bring quick relief.

Australia is still recovering from last season's record infernos, blamed largely on global warming. It has experienced nine of its 10 hottest years on record since 2005, prompting authorities to warn that fire risks will continue to grow.

(Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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