Major wildfires rage in Australia, killing cattle and destroying homes

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Bush and grass fires rage in Australia’s state of Victoria on Sunday, March 18, 2018, as hot and blustery conditions continue affecting the region. The fires are expected to get larger in size before firefighters place them under control.

Dozens of fires in Victoria’s west and southwest that started on March 17 destroyed several homes, killed cattle and burnt large swathes of land on Sunday, March 18. Two of the bigger fires at Colac in western Victoria measuring 3 000 hectares (7 400 acres) and 6 500 hectares (16 000 acres) were being blown east from the wind changes.

The worst-hit areas on Saturday afternoon were around Camperdown, Cobden, Timboon and Terang.

Local media reported 7-meter-high (23 feet) flames lit the night sky, exploding the Terang substation, ‘while downed power lines and strong winds sent fire racing through a Camperdown mother’s house as her family ran for their lives with only the clothes on their backs.’ 

There are fears entire dairy herds have been lost in the Terang and Cobden areas, while farmers are scrambling to find generators or walking their cows to neighboring farms so they can be milked.

Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley said Sunday some 12 homes were impacted, 40 000 hectares (100 000 acres) of land burned and hundreds of beef and dairy cattle will be lost as a result of these fires.

“We’ve got fires, major fires, running. They will get larger in size before we get control of them,” he added, as the weather bureau predicted peak gusts of up to 110 km/h (70 mph).

There were no significant injuries and no deaths in a very dynamic environment, Lapsley said. “I would say local communities have done exceptionally well.”

“We know there’s a significant number of properties that the fire has impacted,” La told ABC.

The corporation added that residents living near one of the worst-hit areas, the small town of Terang some 200 kilometers (124 miles) southwest of Melbourne, were told by authorities it was ‘too late to leave’ and they must ‘take shelter indoors immediately’.

“This has been a difficult weekend with both hot and windy conditions,” Deputy Premier James Merlino said, adding that this is the biggest fire event of the season. “There are sheds, machinery and unfortunately a large number of livestock affected by the fires beyond the 10 to 12 homes. Hundreds of beef and dairy cattle will be lost as a result of these fires.”

Featured image: Camperdown fire, Victoria, AU on March 18, 2018. Credit: Monique Hore ‏@moniquehore

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