Australia suffers double weather whammy over weekend

Residents in Victoria and Northern Territory affected

SYDNEY Australia suffered a double weather whammy over the weekend as fires forced residents in Victoria state to flee, and a cyclone knocked out power to 25,000 homes in Darwin.

Residents in Victoria's south-west had to flee to basketball stadiums and community centres yesterday as dry, hot and windy weatherstarted grass fires on Saturday evening and burned out of control.

Emergency warnings were issued across more than 45 towns by 11.30amyesterday, according to the Victoria government emergency website.

"Four properties have been affected so far, but that number may change," a State Control Centre spokesman said.

Some roads have been closed with residents told to take shelter where they were as it was too dangerous to risk being caught by the flames in the open, or to navigate the roads in the thick smoke.

Six relief centres have been opened so far.

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology warned of severe fire danger yesterday for the south-west and central areas of Australia's second-most populous state, with warm temperatures of 25 deg C together with dry and gusty winds creating a weather that fans flames.

The warning was also issued for the Australian Capital Territory, home of Australia's Parliament House and within the eastern state of New South Wales, where temperatures of up to 41 deg C have been forecast.

Bush fires are a common and deadly threat in Australia's hot, dry summers, fuelled by flammable eucalyptus bushland.

In Darwin, about 25,000 homes were without power after a tropical cyclone felled trees, cancelled flights, closed schools and delayed shipping.

No deaths were reported.


Residents of the capital of Australia's Northern Territory have been warned to boil their water as a precaution after Tropical Cyclone Marcus lashed the city with 130kmh winds on Saturday.

The cyclone churned out to sea on Saturday evening, where it gathered strength before hitting the northern coast yesterday morning, this time in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia.

The Northern Territory government said schools would remain closed today and asked non-essential businesses also to stay shut.

Flights resumed yesterday.

Commercial shipping was also back to normal with live cattle export ships and chemical-laden tankers able to return to port after being forced to ride out the storm at sea.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Pieter Claassen told Reuters that Marcus was expected to move into the Indian Ocean today, where it is forecast to grow into a severe Category 3 storm. - REUTERS