Wildfires destroy dozens more homes in southeast Australia

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Albertans return home from Australia firefighting effort
WATCH: Albertans return home from Australia firefighting effort – Jan 30, 2020

Dozens of homes were destroyed overnight in Australia’s southeast but the wildfire threat had diminished by Sunday across New South Wales state and around the national capital Canberra, officials said.

Bega Valley Mayor Kristy McBain said damage in her region 240 kilometers south of Canberra had yet to be assessed by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

“There have been additional homes lost in the Bega Valley,” McBain said.

“We’re talking probably dozens more. We want to make sure we continue to support our community. This fire isn’t over yet,” she added.

She said the overnight fire brought losses of homes in the valley to more than 400 in the current fire season.

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Rural Fire Service spokesman Greg Allan said damage assessment teams had yet to confirm media reports of homes lost near the village of Bumbalong, 92 kilometers south of Canberra.

A dangerous fire threatened southern Canberra and the nearby village of Tharwa. The fire had burnt 55,000 hectares of forest and farmland by Sunday, with a perimeter 148 kilometers long, the Australian Capital Territory Emergency Services Agency said.

Residents close to the fire front were warned on Sunday to remain vigilant.

“This morning the fire is still active. There are still days and possibly weeks of firefighting ahead of us,” Australian Capital Territory Chief Minister Andrew Barr told reporters.

He said a state of emergency for Canberra and its surrounds would remain in place until at least Monday. It is the first such emergency declaration in the Australian Capital Territory since 2003, when wildfires killed four people and destroyed almost 500 homes in a single day.

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There were no fires burning at emergency level — the most dangerous on a three-tier scale — across the Australian Capital Territory or surrounding New South Wales on Sunday.

Fires across southern Australia have claimed at least 33 lives since September, destroyed more than 3,000 homes and razed more than 10.6 million hectares.

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