Fifty-nine houses have been lost and 29 scorched in forest fires blazing 40 kilometres from the centre of Perth, officials in the Western Australia state capital said Monday.
The Fire and Emergency Services Authority said there were no reports of deaths or injuries and that the winds fanning the flames were easing and they believed they had the fire under control.
Western Australia state Premier Colin Barnett praised residents for early evacuation, ensuring there was no loss of life.
‘I congratulate the people of the area in very distressing circumstances for taking the advice of professionals and for evacuating, for leaving their homes,’ Barnett said. ‘And that would be a very, very difficult thing to do – hard to imagine.’
Hundreds of firefighters were battling the blazes with the help of six helicopter water bombers.
People who fled the fires were put up at a gymnasium, where staff had the heartbreaking task of telling them which houses had been razed and which were spared.
Bob Walton, whose house was incinerated in the fire, said his most treasured possessions – his father’s and his grandfather’s war medals – were lost along with everything else he owned.
‘I’ve been in there with a shovel and, sadly, I think they’ve probably melted like everything else has,’ he told national broadcaster ABC after being allowed back to see what was left of his house.
‘It’s all material stuff that can be replaced – settees, sofas, carpets – but those medals were very close to me.’
The loss of homes in Perth coincides with the second anniversary of forest fires north of Melbourne that claimed 173 lives, destroyed 2,000 properties and blackened 450,000 hectares.
The Perth fires are the latest in a string of natural disasters to befall Australia and follow on from 10 years of drought.
On the eastern seaboard, torrential January rains flooded much of Queensland, knocking out coal mines and inundating thousands of houses in Brisbane, the state capital.
The flood repair bill is estimated at 5.6 billion Australian dollars (5.6 billion US dollars).
Last week, a monster cyclone thundered over the north Queensland coast, smashing crops, wrecking tourist resorts and running up a bill estimate at 1 billion Australian dollars.
Maximum-strength Cyclone Yasi flattened 150 houses and left 650 with serious structural damage. Queensland’s tourism industry will take years to fully recover, officials said.
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