'Destructive wildfires tamed as Aus heatwave eases' | world | Hindustan Times
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'Destructive wildfires tamed as Aus heatwave eases'

world Updated: Feb 01, 2009 08:47 IST

Wildfires that destroyed at least 28 homes in Australia were coming under control on Sunday as a blistering heatwave that claimed dozens of lives eased, officials said.

Cooler temperatures and a light drizzle helped firefighters contain a blaze which scorched more than 6,500 hectares (16,000-acres) in the Gippsland area of southeastern Victoria state, the Country Fire Authority said.

Emergency crews were making good progress on containment lines around the main blaze but unstable winds were still posing a threat, said incident controller Ben Rankin.

"However it's good conditions, the best we've had up to date," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The fire authority confirmed that 28 homes in the Darlimurla and Boolarra areas had been destroyed by the fire since Friday and warned that the figure could rise.

The worst heatwave in a century, which left the countryside like a tinderbox, also hit the Victoria state capital Melbourne hard.

More than 500,000 houses and businesses in the city were left without power on Friday night after an electrical substation exploded in the heat and emergency services were stretched to breaking point as people succumbed to the heat.

Temperatures in Victoria topped 43 degrees Celsius (109 Fahrenheit) for a record-breaking third consecutive day on Friday, but dropped from their sizzling peaks to about 30 degrees Celsius on Sunday.

There was also slight relief in neighbouring South Australia, where temperatures in the capital Adelaide were forecast to drop below 40 degrees Celsius for the first time in days.

At least 28 heat-related deaths had been reported by Saturday morning as the city sweltered for almost a week under temperatures which reached 45.7 degrees Celsius on Wednesday.

Despite the slightly cooler temperatures expected, officials urged residents to check on their elderly neighbours.

"We know older people suffer more in the heat, especially those who are already ill with chronic conditions like heart or kidney disease," said state health chief medical officer Paddy Phillips.