Residents flee homes from Australian wildfires

One resident, named Ray, told ABC radio he expected his house to be gone after watching “flames above the roof” as he fled.

He added: “I’d just like to say to people who are out there on the roads and blocking the roads, people like me are fleeing for our lives.”

The Country Fire Service said the fire was just a few kilometres (miles) from Port Lincoln and extremely dangerous, cutting electricity to thousands of homes. A second major inferno was blazing near the town of Kingston in the state’s southeast, directly threatening a number of farms, it added.

The fire service warned people in the area to take shelter in a solid structure immediately and to stay off the roads.

“You should not attempt to leave or enter this area as the roads will not be safe,” it said in a warning.

Another Port Lincoln resident, identified only as Jeff, told the ABC he could see “exploding big flames” streaming from the fire, adding that “some of them look to be at least 100-foot high”.

Much of the state had been declared at catastrophic risk, as temperatures soared above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and strong winds buffeted the region. Catastrophic or Code Red conditions are considered on a par with those experienced ahead of the so-called Black Saturday fires in February- Australia’s worst disaster of modern times.

Residents cannot be forcibly evacuated but are strongly advised to abandon their property due to extreme risk of death or injury. A cool change was expected to sweep through late yesterday, bringing welcome rain for fire crews.

Meanwhile, small communities in Western Australia’s Pilbara region began mopping up yesterday after tropical Cyclone Laurence swept through, flattening buildings and uprooting trees. The cyclone was sweeping eastward across the state but had been downgraded to a Category 1 storm -the lowest rating – and was expected to weaken further as it heads inland, officials said.

Meteorologists said it was expected to bring intense rainfall for drought-parched areas in central New South Wales (NSW) state, with major flooding expected. “This event could bring the heaviest widespread rainfall to northern inland NSW for over a decade,” said regional weather director Barry Hanstrum.

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