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Disasters

Australia firefighters in race against time

Firefighters in Australia have been working round-the-clock to bring a series of blazes under control ahead of a forecast temperature spike. At least 15 bush fires remain out of control in the state of New South Wales.

Wearing protective clothing a firefighter is almost surrounded by red hot flames

Australien Buschbrände

It was a race against time for firefighters in Australia's south-eastern state of New South Wales on Thursday as prime weather conditions over the weekend threaten to bring more infernos.

Although many areas saw a brief respite from January's record-breaking heat wave on Wednesday and Thursday, temperatures on Friday look set to jump over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) yet again.

"It's about focusing on getting as much contained and consolidated as we can ahead of a return to hotter and dryer conditions dominating much of NSW [New South Wales] over the coming days," the state's Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told Australia's ABC television.

"We're looking at temperatures across much of NSW into low-to-mid 40s and extending into the high 40s on Saturday."

"The only reprieve, if you can call it that, is that we are not expecting significant wind strengths to build."

It is believed that 126 fires are still burning across Australia's most populous state, while more than a dozen remain out of control.

Week-long heat wave

Soaring temperatures over the last week have seen lightning strikes ignite hundreds of forest fires across the country. In New South Wales alone, the blazes have burned more than 350,000 hectares (865,000 acres) of land, destroyed homes and killed thousands of livestock.

One of the worst-hit areas is Yass Shire, west of the capital Canberra, where a fire has so far reduced more than 16,000 hectares of land to ash and killed 10,000 sheep.

In the island state of Tasmania, meanwhile, an estimated 1 percent of the land area has been burned and 126 properties destroyed. Fires are also raging in the states of Victoria and Queensland.

No deaths have yet been reported. Previous reports that 100 people were killed in Tasmania have now been discounted.

ccp/lw (AFP, dpa)