MELBOURNE • Residents returned to charred homes after a Christmas Day bush fire in southern Australia destroyed more than 100 properties, with firefighters bracing themselves for a heatwave in the lead-up to the new year.
Some 116 homes south-west of Melbourne in the wooded coastal area along the Great Ocean Road tourist drive were razed as about 500 firefighters battled to put out the inferno. Scenes of burnt-out homes, blackened cars, fallen trees and downed power lines greeted residents allowed back into the zone yesterday to inspect their properties.
One of the lucky survivors was a koala bear, which was found unconscious by firefighters on a road as they fought the flames at the seaside towns. It was nursed back to health and hand-fed water and gum leaves by Victoria Police officers, and has reportedly since been nicknamed Constable K. Bear.
The Victoria state authorities warned that some blazes - while no longer an immediate threat - would continue to burn for weeks.
One resident, Mr Tony Maly, recalled his horror as he watched his home and those around it go up in flames.
"It was like the apocalypse," he told Melbourne's The Age newspaper on Saturday. "The first house that went up was right next to mine. Thirty minutes, it was gone... Then the other house next to mine lit up, and I knew mine was gone."