Forest fires rage in Australia's west

Forest fires rage in Australia's west

Australians woke to yet another natural disaster Monday with forest fires burning out of control just 40 kilometres from the centre of the west coast city of Perth, dpa reported.

Up to 40 houses have gone up in flames, and dozens more have been left empty in the path of fire after the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) ordered evacuations.

Police manning roadblocks to enforce the evacuation have arrested several householders trying to return and defend their homes.

Tinder-dry foliage, gusty winds and rocky terrain have made an already difficult firefighting job worse.

"It's in the escarpment, and it's a very rocky, hilly area and not friendly to vehicle movement," FESA spokesman Rick Tyler said. "It's much easier to attack it from the air than from the ground."

The loss of homes in Perth coincides with the second anniversary of forest fires north of Melbourne that claimed 173 lives, destroyed 2,000 properties and blackened 450,000 hectares.

The forest fires near the West Australian state capital come after the state of Queensland on the eastern seaboard was ravaged by floods and then a cyclone.

The FESA has hundreds of firefighters battling the blazes, helped by six helicopter water-bombers.

"It's just the strength of the easterly winds. They were at damaging strength two days ago, and they have maintained the consistency," FESA regional coordinator John McMillan told national broadcaster ABC.

"We haven't had loss of life. We are grateful for that, but certainly there's a lot of trauma that goes with it."

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