PERTH (AFP) - Two people have died and more than a hundred homes have been destroyed in a huge bushfire, the Australian authorities said yesterday, as firefighters battled to tame the out-of-control blaze.
The inferno - which has razed about 71,000ha in Western Australia state - is the most recent in a series of bushfires that have kicked off a hot summer season, with the latest deaths lifting the national toll to eight.
The two bodies were found in burnt-out houses in Yarloop, a historic mill town 110km south of Perth that has been devastated by the bushfire - one of the worst to hit the region in recent years.
The bodies are believed to be those of two missing men aged 73 and 77, Western Australia Police told Agence France-Presse.
"It's just another day of catastrophe, isn't it?" Ms Tania Jackson, the head of the regional council, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation after news of the deaths.
"Each day that has gone by seems to bring worse news. It's devastating," she said.
The bushfire, which started mid-last week, has destroyed 143 properties, including 128 homes in Yarloop, according to the state's Department of Fire and Emergency Services.
Some 250 firefighters are fighting the blaze, which has a perimeter of about 226km, and the authorities said yesterday that it was "contained" within the fire zone but not yet under control, amid cooler weather.
Western Australia's state premier Colin Barnett said the event had been declared a natural disaster, a measure that gives residents access to greater financial support.
Yarloop residents spoke of how the bushfire tore through their town in just seven minutes, as aerial footage showed blackened ground, burnt-out shells of vehicles and houses reduced to brick fireplaces.