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Under fire, Australia leaps back thanks to weather

world Updated: Feb 15, 2009 15:04 IST

AFP
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Milder weather is giving Australian firefighters a desperately needed break as they battle blazes that have killed at least 181 people, officials said on Saturday.

The army of firefighters was making progress in containing 12 intense blazes in the southeastern state of Victoria that have left a string of towns in ashes in the country’s worst ever wildfire disaster.

“Falling temperatures, high relative humidity and even a bit of drizzle in the evening is really helping our efforts and will continue to do so into the middle of next week,” John Maguire of the Country Fire Service said.

Between 4,500 and 5,000 firefighters were using earth-moving equipment, backburning and aircraft water drops to build critical containment lines around the fires that have destroyed 1,800 homes and chewed through 450,000 hectares of bush.