17 Jan 2014

Bushfires rage across southern Australia

9:43 pm on 17 January 2014

Extreme heat and high winds have fanned dozens of bushfires across Australia, prompting hundreds of people to flee their homes in some of the worst conditions seen since Black Saturday.

As a heatwave in south-east Australia entered its fifth straight day of temperatures 40°C and above, authorities issued emergency warnings about out-of-control bushfires.

Fires were burning in Victoria's Grampians region on Friday.

Fires were burning in Victoria's Grampians region on Friday. Photo: AAP

One person has died in the Grampians region of Victoria, where a massive fire has consumed more than 33,000 hectares and is threatening the resort town of Halls Gap on Friday.

Other fires are causing concern in the Gippsland region. Victorian authorities have issued seven emergency warnings to severely affected areas, Reuters reports

The state's Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley says conditions are "up there" as the worst since the Black Saturday fires that killed 173 people in February 2009. He says the Grampians fire is so intense it has created its own weather, triggering lightning and spot fires.

A series of 12 grassfires on Melbourne's northern fringe is believed to have been deliberately lit.

More fires are burning in South Australia, Western Australia and New South Wales.

Record week in Melbourne

The heat wave in Melbourne has created a new record. The city has recorded four consecutive days of more than 40°C, with overnight temperatures dropping to below 25°C just once since Tuesday.

The ambulance service says it has attended 400 heat exposure cases. At one stage on Friday, paramedics were dealing with a heart attack every six minutes, the ABC reports.

For people living in Melbourne and across the state the past week has been a record-breaking scorcher. The record temperatures have forced a spike in cardiac arrests. Paramedics attended seven heart attack victims before 6.30am.

The Weather Bureau is forecasting cooler conditions for Melbourne this weekend and into next week.

South Australia

Temperatures in Adelaide soared into the 40s on Thursday.

Temperatures in Adelaide soared into the 40s on Thursday. Photo: AAP

At least two homes have been destroyed in Eden Valley, north-east of Adelaide.

Country Fire Service spokesperson Yvette Dowling says Friday's weather is severe and residents needed to have their fire plans ready.

Adelaide was forecast to have a top temperature on Friday of 42°C before the cooler changes sweeps through late in the night. AAP reports the mercury on Thursday hit 44.2°C, though that left it short of the all-time record of 46.1°C set in 1939.

There have been more than 450 fires in southern Australia since Tuesday.