Fresh evacuation orders in Australia as bushfire threatens rural towns

  • World
  • Friday, 23 Feb 2024

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Hundreds more residents in Australia's Victoria state were urged to evacuate their properties immediately on Friday after a bushfire that has destroyed several properties and killed livestock continued to threaten rural towns.

More than 2,000 people on Thursday fled from towns in Victoria's west after emergency evacuation orders were issued to leave while it was still safe and head east to the nearby regional hub of Ballarat, 95 km (59 miles) west of Melbourne.

Hundreds of firefighters are battling a massive blaze supported by several aircraft as fresh evacuation warnings covered 14 rural towns. Roughly 10,000 hectares (100 square kilometres) have been burnt, authorities said.

Stronger-than-expected winds are spreading fires faster and closer to towns as emergency crews urged residents to take shelter indoors if unable to leave.

"I do expect that fire conditions will remain reasonably volatile today," Jason Heffernan, chief officer of Victoria state fire department, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

"We're getting early reports, unfortunately, of some home losses and as well as multiple sheds ... we do expect to see significant shed loss, stock loss and fencing," Heffernan said.

Emergency crews said they would begin taking stock of damages from Friday morning.

A cold front off Australia's south coast would move to the regions in the east battling bushfires, pushing temperatures down on Friday, according to a weather bureau forecast, likely bringing some relief.

(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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