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Bushfires in Australia reach "catastrophic" level

Published on Jan 8, 2013 8:30 AM
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SYDNEY (AFP) - Bushfires raged out of control across Australia's most populous state on Tuesday, fanned by intense heat and high winds in "catastrophic" conditions that threatened homes and triggered evacuations.

More than 130 fires were burning across New South Wales state, 40 of them uncontained, state Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters in Sydney.

"You don't get conditions worse than this, we are at the catastrophic level," he said.

Introduced after the 2009 Black Saturday firestorm in Victoria state, which claimed 173 lives, a "catastrophic" rating means fires will be uncontrollable, unpredictable and fast-moving, with evacuation the only safe option.

 
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