Thousands ordered to flee while they can as bushfire burns in Australia’s south

Thousands ordered to flee while they can as bushfire burns in Australia’s south
Smoke from a bushfire west of Creswick at Beaufort, Victoria, Australia, 22 February 2024. More than 1,000 firefighters are working to contain a large bushfire raging in western Victoria as hot conditions set in across New South Wales. Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan said 'extreme heat conditions' were reported across the state as fire crews are working to get the fires under control. EPA-EFE/CRESWICK FIRE BRIGADE HANDOUT

SYDNEY, Feb 22 (Reuters) - More than two thousand people have been ordered to evacuate from towns in the west of Australia's Victoria state due to a bushfire burning out of control on Thursday.

The state emergency service urged residents in the towns of Raglan and Beaufort, home to around two thousand people, and those in surrounding areas to leave while it was still safe and head east to the nearby regional hub of Ballarat, 95 kms (59 miles) west of Melbourne.

Roughly 50 square kms (12,355 acres) is ablaze northwest of Ballarat. A similar area is also burning out of control further to the west.

State Premier Jacinta Allan said more than 1,000 firefighters were on the ground, supported by 24 aircraft and more than 100 vehicles. More are set to join the fight soon.

“Leaving immediately is the safest option for those communities,” she said at a news conference. “If you are located in these areas, please heed this advice, please act now to save your own life.”

Officials said no property damage had been reported but it was too soon for an accurate picture.

Large swathes of the state are on high alert for fires and the Bureau of Meteorology on Thursday issued extreme fire danger warnings for several districts due to hot, dry winds and the potential for thunderstorms.

The fires west of Ballarat are expected to worsen throughout the evening until around midnight, when the winds will begin to slow, Jason Heffernan, chief officer of the Country Fire Authority, told the news conference.

Temperatures were above 40 degrees Celsius (104° Fahrenheit) in the north west of the state at 3.00pm (0400 GMT).

(Reporting by Lewis Jackson; Editing by Michael Perry and Stephen Coates)


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