Hundreds flee as Australian bushfires rage out of control

A firefighter putting out flames in the town of Drake, New South Wales, on Sept 9, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SYDNEY (DPA) - Hundreds of people had to flee their homes on the Queensland coast overnight as 68 bushfires raged out of control for the fifth day, the Australian state's fire service said Tuesday morning (Sept 10).

The popular tourist seaside town of Noosa was on high alert as fires whipped up by high winds hit the nearby Peregian Beach settlement destroying at least two homes overnight, Queensland Fire Emergency Services said.

More than 100 fire crews fought the blaze which broke out near Peregian late Monday. Police were investigating whether this fire was deliberately lit and were talking to several teenagers, Australia's national broadcaster ABC reported.

Sunshine coast acting mayor Tim Dwyer said the situation was "very very tricky" but residents were heeding warnings and moving to safe places.

A dozen schools were closed in south eastern Queensland and a thousand properties were without electricity as authorities cut power for safety reasons.

Hundreds of firefighters were also battling 58 bushfires in northern New South Wales for the fifth day, with fresh outbreaks overnight near the resort town of Yamba, near the border with Queensland.

The fires began Thursday whipped by strong winds, embers leaping large distances spreading flames beyond control of the firefighters.

Even coastal rainforests are tinder dry after a warmer than usual winter and three years of intense drought.

So far 26 homes have been destroyed on Australia's east coast in the earliest start to the bushfire season on record.

Firefighters say it could take several weeks to bring the fires under control as no rain is predicted for weeks.

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