Two dead, dozens of homes destroyed as bushfires rage across eastern Australia
SYDNEY, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Two people have been killed and dozens of homes destroyed in bushfires raging across Australia's northern Queensland state, as firefighters travel from across the country and from New Zealand to try and contain the out-of-control blazes.
Residents have been told to evacuate from two massive bushfires in the southeast portion of Queensland, even as dozens of fires continue to burn across the state where at least 45 homes have been destroyed and two people killed since last week.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called the fires “devastating” in a visit to the state on Tuesday and said the federal government would provide extra support to deal with what it estimates will be at least 42,000 claims for assistance as a result of the destruction.
“These are heartbreaking scenes when people lose their houses,” Albanese said from the town of Bundaberg, near one of the large fires. “This is a difficult period and it’s going to be a difficult summer.
Firefighters from the neighbouring state of Victoria and New Zealand were on their way to help, Albanese added.
The early start to fire season comes as Australia recorded its driest September on record and the weather bureau forecast months of hot weather and below average rainfall ahead.
More than 7,500 hectares (18,500 acres) are burning out of control in the neighbouring state of New South Wales, only 40 kms (25 miles) from one of the Queensland fires.
Firefighters said a 100 hectare (247 acre) blaze near Ulan, roughly 200 kms (125 miles) northwest of Sydney, was “impinging” on a facility where explosives were stored and warned those nearby to leave.
(Reporting by Lewis Jackson; Editing by Michael Perry)