Australia bushfire kills two, destroys scores of homes
PERTH, Australia — At least two people have died in a bushfire which has destroyed 121 homes in Western Australia, reports said Saturday as officials admitted the emergency was not yet over.
Fire crews found two bodies in burnt-out houses in Yarloop, some 110 kilometres (70 miles) south of Perth, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported, citing police. Another two people are missing.
The bodies have not been formally identified but are believed to be those of two men in their 70s who had been reported missing after fire tore through the old mill town early on Friday, destroying scores of homes.
That number of houses rose to 121 on Saturday after a fuller assessment, as hundreds of firefighters continued to battle the huge blaze which threatens nearby areas.
“It is still a cause for concern,” Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Wayne Gregson told reporters of the blaze.
“It has been a very challenging fire for us — it’s still a challenge, (we’re) not out of the woods yet.”
Residents of Yarloop and other towns in the area were advised to evacuate if possible, with an bushfire emergency warning still in place.
“There is a threat to lives and homes in Harvey, Cookernup, Wokalup and surroundings areas,” the Department of Fire and Emergency Services said on its website.
“Unless you are ready and prepared to actively defend your property, evacuate to the south via the South Western Highway if safe to do so,” it said.
Western Australia’s Premier Colin Barnett said the event had been declared a natural disaster, a measure which gives residents access to greater financial support.
But he admitted that the damage bill was going to be a “large one”.
Bushfires are common in Australia’s hotter months, with four deaths in Western Australia last November.
Australia’s worst firestorm in recent years devastated parts of the southern state of Victoria in 2009, razing thousands of homes and killing 173 people.