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Smoke rises from a burning property in Dunalley, Tasmania (Richard Jupe/Newspix/Rex Features)

Wildfires devastate communities in Australia

8 January 2013

"Catastrophic" conditions have caused wildfires to spread across south east Australia. Temperatures soared to 54 degrees Celsius with hundreds of people evacuated from their homes. Fires raged through New South Wales and continued to devastate the Tasmania. A record-breaking heatwave combined with high winds and drought has made the fires difficult to control. Thousands of people have been stranded and at least 100 homes have been destroyed. The conditions are reminiscent of those in 2009, when "Black Saturday" wildfires killed 173 people and caused $2.7bn in damage in Victoria state. "We are shaping up for one of the worst fire danger days on record," the New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, said. "You don't get conditions worse than this. We are at the catastrophic level and clearly in those areas leaving early is your safest option."