Wildfire raging for a week in eastern Australia claims a life and razes more than 50 homes
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A wildfire is suspected to have killed a man, destroyed more than 50 homes and razed 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres) of farm and scrubland in eastern Australia, authorities said on Tuesday.
Firefighters have been battling the blaze that has scorched the Queensland state town of Tara for more than a week.
No new property losses were reported on Tuesday as crews sweltered in 37 degrees Celsius (99 degrees Fahrenheit) weather to reinforce containment lines established on Monday, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Acting Superintendent Cameron Herbert said.
“It’s not a fire that you can put out. We can’t actually extinguish it, but we just need to control it,” Herbert told reporters.
Firefighting reinforcements from Victoria state and New Zealand were heading to the fire front this week to relieve weary locals.
“The fatigue is definitely setting in,” Herbert said.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese flew to Queensland on Tuesday to pledge his support for wildfire victims.
Police reported the charred body of a man had been found on the fire ground last week. Details of how he died have not been established.
The tally of homes destroyed in Tara’s surrounds had reached 53 by Monday and hundreds have been forced to flee.
“Some areas are still too hot to get into. Unfortunately we are expecting that number to go up,” Western Downs Mayor Paul McVeigh said.
There were about 70 fires burning across Queensland on Tuesday and nine in New South Wales to the south, which marks an early start to Australia’s wildfire season that peaks during the Southern Hemisphere summer.
Albanese urged residents in the fire zone to monitor safety advice and avoid further tragedy.
“These are heartbreaking scenes when people lose their houses,” Albanese told reporters. “This is a difficult period, and it’s going to be a difficult summer.”
Experts predict the approaching wildfire season will be the most destructive since the Black Summer fires of 2019-20 that killed 33 people, destroyed more than 3,000 homes and razed 19 million hectares (47 million acres).
Those fires came at the end of 2019, which was Australia’s hottest and driest year on second.
Three successive La Nina weather patterns since then have brought wetter and milder summers. But a current El Nino weather event is bringing hotter and drier conditions to Australia’s populous southeast.