Australia: Perth Area Declared a Natural Disaster Zone as Wildfire Rages Out-of-Control

Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) — Western Australia’s state premier, Colin Barnett, declared an area near the state capital of Perth a natural disaster zone after a bushfire raging out of control on the fringes of the city destroyed 59 structures.

Homes, sheds and carports have been destroyed by the blaze, Natasha Thorson, a spokeswoman with the Fire & Emergency Services Authority, or FESA, said in a phone interview today.

The fires started yesterday in the Roleystone and Kelmscott areas in Perth’s south-east from sparks by a machinist using an angle grinder, cited a FESA spokesman, which it didn’t identify, as saying.

More than 100 firefighters are battling the blaze, which is moving at 100 meters an hour in numerous directions with flames reaching three meters, FESA said. The bushfire poses a “threat to lives and homes,” the authority said.

The blaze has burned about 440 hectares, has cut power and closed two schools in the area. Two helicopters are assisting, FESA said. There are no reports of injuries.

The state government will provide immediate financial help to people affected by the fire, Barnett said in an e-mailed statement today.

Authorities have issued emergency warnings for the south western part of Roleystone and south eastern part of Kelmscott in Armadale, about 30 kilometers from Perth’s city center. Emergency warnings are also in place for Brigadoon, Baskerville, Millendon, Red Hill and Herne Hill in the city of Swan.

The fires are threatening outlying suburbs of Perth almost two years to the day bushfires cut a swath through the state of Victoria in Australia’s southeast corner. Bushfires that swept across Victoria on Feb. 7, 2009 killed 173 people and razed 450,000 hectares of land as temperatures soared to as high as 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit).

Services were being held across Victoria today to mark the anniversary.

By Jason Scott and Ben Sharples – Feb 7, 2011 6:28 AM GMT+0100

Source: Bloomberg

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